Mark 14:26-31 (ESV)
Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.
Mark 14:66-72 (ESV)
Peter Denies Jesus
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Tonight we see Jesus in the Upper Room with eleven of his disciples, yes, only eleven disciples. Only eleven because Judas has already left to prepare for his betrayal of Jesus. After the institution of the Lord’s Supper, after singing a hymn, they head out with Jesus to the Mount of Olives. There on the Mount of Olives, at the entrance to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells them that they will all fall away. He says, “strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered (13:7). Of course, the proud spokesman, Peter, thought he was exempt from this. Pointing at the other disciples, possibly with his chest puffed out, Peter says to Jesus, “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). Jesus however knows better. He says to Peter, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times” (14:30). Peter emphatically says, “If I must die with You, I will not deny You.” They, the other disciples, all said the same!” (14:31).
“They all said the same.” Not just Peter, but all disciples tried to exempt themselves from Jesus’ saying. They all denied that they would fall away from Jesus. When you really think about this … this was a rather foolish thing for them to do because they were essentially denying the words of Jesus, which means they were denying the inspired and inerrant Word of God recorded by a prophet long ago.
You’ve probably heard the song “Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles. If you haven’t, take the time to listen to it sometime, it’s a classic. The point of the song is that though you try to disguise your intent with a smile, like the young lady does in the song, it is not enough to hide lying eyes. If our eyes, if they give away lies to one another, then how much more can the omniscient, the all-knowing Lord Jesus see through the lying and denying eyes of His disciples of all times and all places?
What was in the eyes of the disciples as they looked upon Jesus predicting their falling away from Him? Perhaps at first there is a look of horror at such an awful prospect of them falling away. After this maybe a look of disbelief as they process Jesus’ saying and begin to form their defense. Finally, maybe a slightly crazed look of a religious fanatic who thinks he can keep his vows to God simply by his own will power.
You see, the eyes of the disciples weren’t really seeing Jesus and letting the truth of His words sink into their ears. Instead, they were blinded by their own delusions. They were essentially lying to themselves as they were denying their Lord’s word. The disciples were focused on their own perceptions and plans. They had their mind set on the things of men rather than on the things of God (Mark 8:33).
In spite of their persuasive protests to not fall away from following Jesus, when pressured, ten of them do so very quickly. And then there is Peter. Peter lingers in the distance as Jesus is taken away. Peter, warming himself in the courtyard of the high priest is questioned. Peter is cross-examined at first by a little servant girl as to whether or not he knows Jesus. Peter denies it. Peter moves out of the courtyard into the gateway as the rooster crows. Again, he is cross-examined again by the little servant girl, but again Peter denies knowing Jesus. Then the bystanders question Peter and again, invoking a curse upon himself Peter denies Jesus a third time. After his three denials, Peter hears the rooster crow the second time and realizes the horrific thing he has done as he breaks down and cries (Mark 14:66-72). Jesus is now left all alone.
This is nothing new though. Last week we saw Jesus alone, staying awake as he prayed in the garden. But this is the way it had to be. Jesus had to be the last one standing, the only one making “the good confession” (1 Timothy 6:13). Jesus alone had to be the one who would never deny the will of His Father but instead humbly submit to the suffering and death, for me, for you, for us and for our salvation.
When Jesus quoted the prophet Zechariah to his disciples outside of the Garden of Gethsemane, He had actually added a couple of words which I left out earlier. Jesus said, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” (Mark 14:27). This is a quote from the Father, from the God of Israel Himself when he said to the Israelites, “Awake O sword, against My shepherd, against the Man who stands next to Me,’ declares the LORD of hosts. ‘Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’” (Zechariah 13:7).
So, who is this Man who stands next to the LORD? It’s none other than Jesus. Jesus is the One against whom the Father bids the sword to awaken. “I will strike the shepherd,” says the Father. It’s just like how the one who ultimately handed over Jesus wasn’t Judas but was the Father Himself. Or like we heard last week, it was the Father’s will that Jesus drink the cup of His wrath in full, all the way down to the last drop. This again takes us back to Isaiah 53 and the Father’s will to crush the Messiah, to crush His Son so that all sinners would be made right in the Father’s sight. “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). “I will strike the shepherd” said the Father. Jesus, Jesus on the witness stand of the cross was found guilty and was stricken, pierced, crushed, chastised … for you, for me. He took our place under the wrath of God for the sins which you and I commit.
Cased closed right? Nope. Earlier when I focused on Jesus’ words about the disciples falling away and denying Jesus … I might have left out some good news. Okay, I did, but I did it for a good reason. After Jesus told the disciples that they would all fall away He said, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:28). Jesus’ words about the disciples falling away and their denial of him proved true, but even better than that, so did His prediction of His resurrection and His appearing to the disciples on Easter morning. To these denying and doubting disciples, Jesus entrusted the teaching and baptizing which would go out to all nations. The teachings and love of Jesus went out and turned deniers of God into confessors of Jesus, into Christ followers empowered by the Holy Spirit.
But what about Peter? What about the one who had fallen away in such a spectacular fashion? What about the one who denied that he even knew Jesus? What about him?
Well first off, Peter seems to be the only one with some courage as he was the only one who got close enough to the trial of Jesus to be recognized. Secondly, you and I, we think that we would never do such a thing, that we would never deny Jesus if we were in Peter’s shoes, but let’s be honest … how many times in much less persuasive moments have we stood by silently when someone spoke words contradicting our Lord’s Word found in the pages of Scripture? How many opportunities have you and I had to confess the Gospel of Jesus to others but passed it up out of fear of offending someone?
Lastly, we should recognize in Peter an example for us to follow. When we cross examine our sinful self and realize the devastation of our sin within in our lives … we need to be more like Peter in expressing our sorrow over what we have done. Peter turned his sin over to God. We need to do the same thing.
When Jesus appeared to the disciples on Easter, when Jesus showed them His hands and his side … Jesus spoke the forgiving “Peace be with you.” Scripture tells us that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Jesus did this as he pulled Peter aside one morning after breakfast on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus gave Peter a threefold admonition to feed His sheep, which negated Peter’s threefold denial. Jesus said to the forgiven and restored Peter, “Follow me.” And now, Jesus says the same thing to you. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:34-36).
Through your faith in Christ, you have been given a greater gift than the whole world. Through your faith in Christ and by what Jesus has accomplished, you now have life in Him and in His kingdom. In Him, you are saved from sin, death, and hell. You need to no longer worry about things of the world but instead you can look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. “Come, follow Me,” Jesus says. Come, for it is a truly joyful journey. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.