Jesus And Peter
A daily devotion for January 27th
53They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. 54Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58"We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.' " 59Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62"I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64"You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.
66While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
"You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said.
68But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway.
69When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." 70Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, "Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean."
71He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."
72Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times." And he broke down and wept.
He began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them,I don't know this man you're talking about.(Mark 14:71)
Mark is careful to point out the contrast between Jesus' speaking under oath in the inner courtroom and Peter's oath in the courtyard. Jesus said He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and Peter denied that he knew Jesus at all. That was a solemn and serious oath, and just then, Mark says,
the rooster crowed the second time. Peter's conscience smote him. He knew what he had done, and according to the account here, he broke down and wept. The word for
broke down is very strong in Greek. He literally went out and threw himself down on the ground in agony and tears of repentance, and remorse began to flow as he thought of what he had done.
I think we can see why Mark has so carefully weaved this story together for us. Nothing intrigues me more in this account in the gospels than to see the careful way the writers of Scripture choose incidents that belong together and put them side by side. Mark has done that here so that we might see the contrast. Here is a band of priests who hate Jesus. Their hearts are filled with venom and anger and jealousy and bitterness against Him. And all of it comes spilling out in the spitting and buffeting that follow the verdict. Contrasted to this is a man who loves Jesus with all his heart and is determined to defend Him to the end. And yet, in the moment of crisis, he fails Jesus. He denies that he even knows Him.
Why does Mark put these two situations side by side? He does it so that we might understand that both of them manifest the same thing; both show the undependability of human nature--the flesh, as the Bible calls it. These priests were men of the flesh, men who lived according to the ways of the world, men who were seeking for status and prestige and position. Jesus was a threat to their position and awakened their hatred and their anger, which they expressed in this terrible accusation and mockery and violence. That is the flesh at work. Everybody recognizes that hatred and anger and vehemence are wrong. But what Mark wants us to see is that the love of Peter was no better. It too was depending on the flesh, on human abilities and human resources, to carry him through. In the hour of crisis, it was no more effective than the hatred of the priests. Love and loyalty and faithfulness mean nothing when they rest on the shaky foundation of the determination of a human will.
The most hopeful note here is the tears of Peter. The priests didn't weep. But Peter, when he denied his Lord, threw himself down and wept. Failure is never the end of the story. Peter's tears speak of another day that is yet to come when the Lord will deliver him and restore him, having learned a sobering and salutary lesson.
Father, there will come times when I will be confronted with failure. I will find myself, like Peter, doing the very thing I didn't want to do, denying the Lord who bought me. Help me to understand that I must not count upon the power of the flesh to accomplish Your work.
Life Application: When we are faced with the predictable failure of our human nature, do we settle for despair or futility? Where do we go from there?
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