Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a certain servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” And when he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” And a little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk gives you away.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
This is one of the most commonly told stories from the Bible. Before we consider the context of Matthew, let’s look at the other accounts.
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, “You, too, were with Jesus the Nazarene.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch. And the maid saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!” But again he was denying it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” And immediately a cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep.
This is a very similar account but there are some discrepancies. Let’s see what the others say before we consider the context.
And after they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a certain servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” And a little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” And after about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a cock crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
The slave-girl therefore who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself….Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said therefore to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it, and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter therefore denied it again; and immediately a cock crowed.
If we were in a court of law in the United States, and Peter was charged with denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed, he would be convicted on account of these four witnesses. Their narratives do not line up word for word but are extremely close, less a few discrepancies. This is why I find it odd that many “scholars” question the authenticity of the accounts. If the accounts were any closer, they would accuse them of plaegerism–and some do. That, or they would say the words match too well, it must have been rehearsed. Let’s face it, like the Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, chief priests, et al, our modern scholars suggest anything that they possibly can to discredit the Bible. It is what we call having an ulterior motive. Like the high priest not wanting Jesus to be the Messiah, they don’t want Jesus to be the Messiah. We find that the detailed descriptions of that day of denial are deeper than the discrepancies. Additionally, the context of each only takes about two minutes to read, obviously omitted were some details. It goes to each author’s aspiration to his audience. Things such as whether it was a woman or man charging Peter with being a disciple are irrelevant because they are not the 3 denials but merely a catalyst or a function to get Peter to deny Christ. And this is what I would like to focus on, therefore we will come back to this. But we must understand the commotion and choas that was happening that late night into early morning. Everyone was looking for anyone from Galilee who may have been an associate of Jesus. So when two accounts say, “servant-girl, one says, “maid,” and another says, “they,” we understand that the crowd was involved. It’s called considering the context. It is actually the same with Peter’s vocal denials. Do we really think that Peter only said the words which were recorded? Read one account and time yourself for how long it takes to read–clearly many other things were done and said during this chaos and confusion of which the authors don’t record. Each author hits the highlights based upon their aspiration to their audience. Therefore, we are 1000 words in, seeing that Peter denied Jesus before the cock crowed twice. Twice because Mark wrote twice and the others didn’t write how many times. Don’t lose your joy over the cock crowing twice.
Back to the context of Matthew and the constant commotion contained in the context. Here, we consider the greater context and the sublime string. We don’t rip verses out of context but consider the CAGED method of Biblical hermeneutics where; Context is King, Author’s Aspirations to his Audience are Apex, Genre is the General, Expository Exegesis of Examples Enlightens and Dividing Rightly the Word of Truth either confirms or cancels our preconceived notions and presuppositions. Therefore we must remember all that is happening in this scene and what Jesus has foretold. Foremost is the multitude of people, that has only grown, considering the context.
If you have been following along with me in Matthew, which is the only way in which I make any sense, because like Matthew, my missives build on themselves, you will remember me poking fun during the Foolish Five; Twice. In the context, it appears that New York is not the “city that never sleeps,” Jerusalem is. In today’s text we are in the very late hours of the night into the early morning hours. And it seems as though all of Jerusalem is gathered, and not only gathered but stirred up like a hornet’s nest. Notice the context.
Hitting the highlights; “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth, and kill Him. But they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, lest a riot occur among the people.’” “Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests, and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to deliver Him up to you?’ And they weighed out to him thirty pieces of silver. And from then on he began looking for a good opportunity to betray Him.” “Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, “I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED.” But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.’ But Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.’ All the disciples said the same thing too.” “‘Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!’ And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs.” “At that time Jesus said to the multitudes, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber? Every day I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets may be fulfilled.’ Then all the disciples left Him and fled.” “Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a certain servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”
Notice first that the chief priest and elders didn’t want to make a scene during the festival. How’s that working out for them? Nevertheless, we see by the context that in less than a week, Jerusalem has turned on anyone from Galilee because of Jesus. We see the growing, great multitude that has turned on Jesus since the Triumphal Entry To Typically Tragic Times. Jesus was not the Messiah that Jerusalem expected. Because rather than consider the context, they listened to their leaders. Make no mistake, Jesus has caused quite a stir in the already swollen Jerusalem. Do not forget the festival. That is, the place was packed. They even kindled a fire to keep warm according to the other accounts. It was early spring before sunrise at a fairly high elevation, and many people had gathered, so they made a fire that people could use to warm themselves as they waited on the outcome. They came for the passover and stayed for the unlawful, midnight trial of Jesus. Peter was there among the multitudes, which he probably thought gave him some anonymity. It didn’t. Among the multitudes Peter was recognized by a servent-girl as being with Jesus. This is where it gets very interesting. Notice; “a certain servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’
Notice two things, the servent-girlmentions Galilee and Peter talks, in front of everyone. We already know Peter lied, that has been established, we’re digging deeper. How many people do you suppose were in town from Galilee because of the pilgrimage festival of Passover? When I was in Jerusalem some 2000 later, people assumed that I was Roman Catholic because of my dialect–no “southern accent.” In the late 1990’s it was assumed by them that the south was protestant and the north, Roman Catholic. When we first traveled to a certain communist country in the Caribbean, everyone assumed we were Canadian because of our dialect and light skin because Americans didn’t go where we went. Does Peter’s speaking give him away? And if it did, does it imply that he was with Jesus?
Notice; “‘You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’ And when he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’ And a little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk gives you away.'” Should Peter have remained silent? He could have shrugged and walked away at the first accusation. He could have fled with the rest of the disciples, at least that way, he wouldn’t verbally deny Christ. He could have faked a Jerusalem accent, couldn’t he? Peter had a date with destiny, there was nothing he could have done to not deny Jesus.
That sounds odd, doesn’t it? But it had to be because the Lord foretold it. Peter, while 100% responsible for his three denials, had no way out. The obvious question is why? How could Peter’s actions be predetermined? Why did Peter have to deny Jesus? My favorite answer is, because Jesus said so. But I realize that doesn’t suffice for most people. Consider the sublime string and greater context.
“But Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.'” After Peter says this, he then falls asleep on Jesus while he is supposed to be keeping watch. Then he cuts off a man’s ear. Now he is denying Christ three times. Answer: “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Peter’s accent literally gave him away but Spiritually Peter gives himself away. Not everyone from Galilee in Jerusalem was with Jesus. It was much more than his accent that the people heard. Like something out of Hamlet, me thinks that Peter doth protest too much. And that is the sad part of the story; Peter’s emphatic denials. He didn’t just deny, he swore an oath and swore a curse. It was an overtly, unmistakable, overwhelming, over-the-top denial. And it was done in his flesh. That is what this night is all about. The weak flesh and the letter of the Law versus the Sprit and the spirit of the Law. Everyone on the planet that night followed the flesh, except for Jesus.
Having a midnight trial where false witnesses are sought out to convict the only innocent man in history, who is actually the one who wrote the Law, isn’t exactly following the letter of the Law. On the contrary, they violated the Law and are therefore guilty themselves. Three denials from a follower also is fleshly, and violates the Spirit of the Law. Make no mistake; Peter, probably for self-preservation, sinned liked the rest– possibly more so, because he knew the truth and was warned. Nevertheless, Peter was restored and increased greatly because he believed. The others, not so much.
Jesus had to die. Whether in denial or a witness for the defense, Peter could not help Jesus, no one could. The time has come for him to take the denials of Peter and all our sins, and place them on himself. Although the Spirit strengthened Jesus earlier this night, God is about to turn his back on Jesus. And consequently, it is his flesh that will feel the horrific effects of his crucifixion–real, physical pain and anguish. Jesus has much more suffering ahead of him. Nobody was able or going to be an aide to Jesus that night. I will write it again, he had to die. Not only do the actions of the people display this, but also the disciples falling away and Peter’s denial. I find it fairly obvious that Peter loved Jesus, based, ironically, on some of the stupid things that he did. Nevertheless, Peter was flesh and bone, like the rest, and Jesus came in the flesh to put it to death.
Do we deny Jesus daily, where people see that we are his associates yet some of our actions and speech say otherwise?