The Denial of Peter: Matthew 26:69-75
“69) Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70) But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71) 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.” 72) And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73) A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” 74) Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75) And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.” Matthew‬ ‭26‬:‭69‬-‭75‬
The denial of Peter was progressive. He told the first servant girl, “I do not know what you are talking about.” He told the second servant girl, “I do not know the man.” Then to the final accuser he changed his character and began to curse and swear as he said, “I do not know the man.” Luke 22:60-61 adds the note that when the cock crowed, Jesus turned and looked at Peter.
Immediately, Peter remembered the prophecy of Jesus that he would deny Him three times before the cock crowed. With this realization, Peter went out and wept bitterly. He had not only denied he knew Jesus, but this disciple repudiated His Master of three years by forsaking a loving and gentle demeanor. Instead of becoming like his Master, with this single act of vulgarity of speech, he threw off the robe of Christ-likeness. He sounded and acted the role of a heathen.
Hours earlier he had vowed loyalty to Jesus even if the act brought his own death. (Matthew 26:33) Now a little public reticule brought both denial and rejection of his Master. Sandwiched between these two contradictions are the words of Jesus in Matthew 26:41; “… the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The significance of those words now become paramount.
I do not doubt the sincerity of Peter in Matthew 26:33, but he illustrates the point of Romans 8:8 that those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Every true believer needs to move from living in the flesh to living in the Spirit. Romans 6-8 must become the road traveled by every born-again Christan.
Peter standing at distance observing the condemnation of Jesus was very different from the Peter filled with the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. The new Peter became a leader in the early church and a willing and faithful martyr for Jesus Christ. Church history tells us that he was crucified upside down because he did not view himself worthy of dying like His Master.
Paul testified in 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:3 that there is a stark contrast between the Spirit matured Christian and the carnal Christian. Galatians 5:16-26 drives home the same point. The denial of Jesus by Peter illustrates the futility of the flesh to produce lasting fruit.
But failure was Peter’s back door to success. John 21 screams that Jesus was far from done with Peter. He called him to tend His sheep, but he first needed to wait for the promise of the Father. (Read Acts 1:4-8) It does not work to embrace Jesus and hold the Holy Spirit at arms length. This is a recipe for failure and carnality. The arm of flesh will fail you.
If you have failed Jesus, the shortcomings of your fleshly good intentions have been exposed just as Peter’s were. Your flesh cannot please God. It is time to welcome the promise of the Father into your life. It is time to repent from your sinful and carnal ways and seek God on His terms. It is time to seek and embrace the inner ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global