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Matthew 26:58-75: Peter Denies Jesus

Posted by adventbiblestudy on August 25, 2012


Matthew 26:58-75 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end. (59) Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. (60) But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward (61) who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'” (62) Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” (63) But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God–tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” (64) Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (65) Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. (66) What is your verdict?” “Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!” (67) Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, (68) jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?” (69) Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” (70) But Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. (71) Later, out by the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” (72) Again Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man,” he said. (73) A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” (74) Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying–I don’t know the man!” And immediately the rooster crowed. (75) Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he went away, weeping bitterly.

 

Peter felt so ashamed, falling asleep when Jesus asked him to watch and pray. He remembered how his father gave him tasks to do, and how he put his childish games before his work. This cut much deeper than the disappointment he saw in his fathers eyes when he returned to see the task uncompleted.

 

When the temple guards arrested Jesus, Peter tried to make up for his mistake. He remembered how the other disciples followed his example when he vowed never to leave Jesus. It was the first time he ever felt like a leader and he had to take every opportunity to live up to the new role. As two guards grabbed Peter, he broke free. Pulling out his knife he lunged forward to protect Jesus. His wild, aggressive movements alerted the guards to Peter’s lack of military training. If it were not for God’s angel looking over him, making the two guard trip over one another, they would have finished Peter’s life before he reached the temple guard in front of Jesus. Swinging violently from behind Peter laid what he thought would be a decisive blow to the head. The light kitchen knife slide off the top of the helmet, down the side, taking off a piece of the guard’s ear before bouncing harmlessly off the armor covering his shoulder. One of the guards behind Peter rolled forward at Peter’s legs. The impact from behind left Peter with no choice but to fall to the ground. The other guard now held his sword at Peter’s throat. He felt as helpless as he looked.

 

If it was not for a sudden gust of wind and Jesus’ intervention, Peter would have never seen the light of day. Even as Jesus said, “Put away your sword, those who use the sword will die by the sword.” Peter was asking himself, wasn’t it Jesus who told him to take a sword?

 

When they took Jesus away Peter followed at a distance. He breathed a sigh of relief when they turned from the road leading to the temple and headed towards the high priest’s house. He was certain everything would be okay when they reached the courtyard and took Jesus inside. Peter went in, sat with the guards waiting to see how it would all end.

 

The guards took Jesus inside. A group of priests stopped Jesus in the hallway to get a better look at this man they heard so much about. As they inspected Him, Jesus looked beyond the priests to the breastplate of righteousness displayed in the hallway. Jesus suddenly realized He was about to be judged by priests claiming to serve God, but Jesus could see, His Father’s guidance and wisdom were not to play a role in His trial. Tears came to His eyes. The priest inspecting Him wondered why Jesus would not look at them. They interpreted His tears as a sign of guilt and remorse. Their minds were made up. The priests turned and walked in the meeting chamber ahead of Jesus.

 

Inside the chamber, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Two of the priests stood behind Caiaphas, discussing a plan. They remembered something Judas mentioned to them when he came to talk to the high priest. Finally the two men came forward declaring, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ Jesus looked at them, wondering how they heard His statement. He also wondered if they saw the relationship between the temple and three days in the belly of a fish He declared to them in the temple court. There was very little time to think. The high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?”

 

Jesus had no reason to answer. Knowing the priests had no place for His Father in the trial told Jesus there was no chance they would listen to Him. Instead Jesus gave the high priest a stern look as He thought about all He taught in the temple court a few days earlier. Caiaphas felt uncomfortable with Jesus’ stare. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God–tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Jesus continued to look Caiaphas in the eyes. He tried to read them like a book, to look deep inside his soul. Jesus was looking for a spark of compassion, justice, concern, anything indicating any sign of hope. There was nothing there. It was like looking into an abyss. Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 

Jesus observed Caiaphas’ every movement. Caiaphas’ eyes tried to burn through Jesus, as if he was attempting to display his power and authority over Him. Jesus changed His look to one of compassion. Was there a way He could reach Caiaphas? Jesus knew no man has heard more about His mission, every word He preached, every part of scripture He quoted, every person He healed, the group He collected and called His disciples. Jesus wondered how anyone could undergo such a quest for knowledge and achieve such a low degree of wisdom. Jesus knew Caiaphas’ quest for power blinded him at every turn. No matter how the Spirit tried to explain the wealth of knowledge Caiaphas held, his heart would not understand a single word in.

 

Jesus watched as Caiaphas felt around his collar with his fingers. His eyes had a look of fear as if he had forgotten something and was about to be embarrassed. As his fingers fumbled around his collar, they stopped at one point. His expression changed from fear to confidence. Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy.” The entire chamber broke out in sheiks and shouts. Some feel to the ground as if their strength left them. Others waved their fists in the air. Jesus released His contact with Caiaphas by turning His eyes to the ground, thinking for a moment about His conference with the priests when He was a young boy.

 

Caiaphas raised his hands to bear his chest and quite the room. He shouted out, what is your verdict?” Raising their fists in the air the priests shouted back, “guilty, guilty, guilty, He deserves to die!” Jesus knew He had passed the point of no return. The timing of the prophecies was to be fulfilled on time. They began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?” Jesus did not fight back, He couldn’t. He was stilled tied, presented to the counsel in the image of a criminal.

 

Jesus’ beating began with the guards holding Him fast. It quickly spread to the highest ranking priests, each attempting to make the biggest spectacle of himself by striking a man unable to defend Himself. Justice was not going to interfere with their ambition for power. It was not clear which supported Jesus’ mock trial, and which opposed it. What was evident was the fact all the priests knew Caiaphas’ future depended upon how he handled this situation. They knew a single error would open up the opportunity for them to compete for the position of high priest.

 

Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. The night was cold with a slight breeze. Clouds hid the stars and moon. The fires lite throughout the courtyard cast noticeable shadows along every wall. Peter stood close to a fire to warm himself. He wanted to be the first to greet Jesus when he was released. It took three years for him to reach his new status with the disciples and was not about to let it go. He wondered how John was able to gain access to Caiaphas’ house. As he gazed into the fire he contemplated the situation and how he could make it work to his advantage. Peter thought John’s association with the priests may be an advantage to tip the scales in his favor. He wondered how he could overcome this major obstacle. As Peter’s mind became lost in the future, a servant girl came over and said to him, “You were one of those with Jesus the Galilean.” Peter thought, it was bad enough John was welcomed into Caiaphas’ house. If he was brought in for questioning it would show he had no influence with the priests. At that moment the door to the house opened. People ran up to get a glimpse inside the high priests’ house. Peter looked as the guards dragging Jesus into the court. The priests did not want Him present as they plotted their next move. It was very important for Caiaphas to gauge his followers and their loyalty.

 

Peter was shocked to see the disfigured face of his Teacher. Jesus’ head hung low as one of the guards helped to support Him. The woman questioning Peter stepped between him and Jesus. Remembering her accusation Peter denied it in front of everyone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” To emphasis his point Peter turned his back and walked toward the gate.

 

Satan was making a point. He knew Peter’s pride and ambition. He knew what prompted Judas to betray Jesus, and Satan decided to use a small servant girl to topple the burley fisherman with sights set on becoming an honored leader.

 

Peter was asking himself if this was all a dream. He wanted to convince himself none of this was happening. How could this be happening? He never imagined the priests would attack and beat Jesus. How could they consider Him a threat? Didn’t they see Jesus was the key to freeing the nation. Peter was completely confused. His mind shifted from thoughts of national conquest to protecting himself from the now evident threat. By the gate, another servant girl noticed him and said to those standing around, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” This time Peter viewed the comment as a threat. Fearing for his life Peter denied it, this time with an oath. “I don’t even know the man.”

 

Peter moved along the wall hiding in the shadows while he tried to make sense of the situation. Everything was changing so fast with too many unexpected events. Peter remembered Jesus teaching how they needed to place his faith in the Spirit. Thinking about how he was going to accomplish this, he began to review his actions. He began to realize he acted out of pride. He admitted to himself, he struck out at the guard, pledged his life to Jesus, and followed Jesus here, not because He loved Jesus, but ultimately for personal gain.

 

Something began to change in Peter. He went over point after point of the past three years when He spoke up, not because he had the right answer, or believed what he was saying, but to draw attention to himself. He began to compare his actions to the example Jesus set for him, and see the drastic contrast. He realized how patient Jesus had been these past years, and how little growth he experienced. Peter began to pray, if given another chance he would be willing to give everything.

 

A little later some of the other bystanders came over to Peter and said, “You must be one of them; we can tell by your Galilean accent.” Peter’s mind once again swung into a defensive mode. Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying–I don’t know the man!”

 

Peter quickly walked away staying close to the wall, looking behind him to see if anyone was following. He turned to look ahead. At that moment he unexpectedly looked straight into the battered and swollen eyes of Jesus gazing straight at him. Peter took a deep breath, and immediately the rooster crowed. Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” As disfigures as His face was from the beating, Jesus’ eyes still conveyed the love He had for Peter. A love Peter felt across the court yard. Jesus could see the sorrow in Peter’s eyes. Peter walked closer to Jesus, stopping a short distance away. He felt Jesus had a message for him. With the flames flickering off Jesus’ face, Peter watched His broken lips spell out the words, “I never wanted to hurt you.” Peter didn’t know what to do. For the first time he wanted to help Jesus, not to draw attention to himself, but to help the Teacher he loved and respected. Peter wanted to step forward and try to free Jesus. With more than a dozen guards standing around, Peter felt helpless. Feeling he had no other choice, Peter went away, weeping bitterly.

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