“And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives. 27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered. 28 But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. 29 But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. 30 And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. 31 But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise, also said they all.”—Mark 14:26-31
In the closing verses of Mark 14 are many events crowded together. In the divine narrative we read of Peter’s great boast (Mark 14:29), and the Lord’s sad prediction concerning that boast (Mark 14:30). The journey to the Garden of Gethsemane is recorded with the agonizing prayers of Jesus while the disciples slept (Mark 14:32-42).
The pace of events picked up with the arrival of Judas, accompanied with the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders (Mark 14:43). In a moment of time Jesus was suddenly arrested (Mark 14:46).
That His being taken into custody was illegal and illogical (Mark 14:48, 49) did not matter.
Jesus was taken and led away for an appearance before members of the Sanhedrin (14:53).
While Jesus began His lonely descent into hell, Peter followed afar off (14:54). Peter tried to be brave (14:47). His spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. In the end, Peter’s great boast gave way to a great lie, repeated three times as he said, “I know not this man of whom ye speak.” Of course, this was not true. Peter did know Christ. He knew Him well.
Peter knew Christ was a compelling Master of Men. It was only three and a half years earlier that Jesus had walked by the Sea of Galilee where “He saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him” (Mark 1:16-18). There was no discussion. A divine summons had been issued. Heaven had called. Christ had come. He was a compelling Master of Men. Those He summoned to service did not hesitate to follow Him. Peter knew. He was one who gladly gave up the affairs of this world to gain eternal life.
Peter knew Christ as a worker of miracles. It was the third day after Peter met the Master. “There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: 2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. 3And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. 4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come. 5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. 6 And there were set there six water pots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. 7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the water pots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. 9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, 10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. 11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory” (John 2:1-11). The result of the miracle of turning water into wine was that Peter “believed on Him.”
Peter believed that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and so knew Him as the Son of the Living God. That is significant, because the divinity of Christ is central to Christian theology. If Jesus is not the Messiah, if He is not the Son of God, then those who worship Him are guilty of idolatry. William Edward Biederwolf, 1867–1939 noted that “A man who can read the New Testament and not see that Christ claims to be more than a man can look all over the sky at high noon on a cloudless day and not see the sun.” While the religious leaders of Israel debated over the divinity of Christ, and whether or not He blasphemed, Peter knew Jesus as the God-man.
Peter also knew Christ as the Final Substitute for those who are the heirs of salvation. In time, Peter would teach others about this redeeming grace. To the early church, Peter would one day remind the saints they were not “redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
However, in an initial hour of crisis, Peter suppressed all the truth he had been taught by Christ. Such is the strength of sin, it can carry the soul whatever way it wills.
The secret of sin’s strength lies in its ability to appeal to the emotions, and promise power, pleasure, or personal security.
There is the strength of covetousness. When Eve saw the forbidden fruit “was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (Gen. 3:6). Eve made a willful decision to disobey the Lord in order to let emotion sweep over her soul. She wanted to experience more power.
There is the strength of sexual misconduct. When Potiphar’s wife saw how handsome Joseph was, she abandoned her marriage vows, and tried to seduce him. She chose to do that which was wrong for a fleeing moment of pleasure.
There is the strength of anger. Modern theories contend that some people are by temperament angrier than others. It is their nature. If that is true, there is another truth. Those who are in Christ are not to be prone to hasty anger. Christians are to be more like the Father in heaven, and manifest His nature of enduring patience, and long-suffering.
“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8).
One reason why anger is not arrested more quickly is because there is often, in part, a measure of personal security involved. There is a will to power. There is an insatiable need to be right, without mercy. But often there is also a feeling of being threatened. It was with anger and passion that Peter denied that he knew Christ because he was afraid that he too might be arrested in the middle of the night. While the behavior of Eve, Potiphar, and Peter, can be understood, it cannot be exonerated.
As Peter knew Christ as a compelling Master of Men, a Worker of Miracles, the Son of the Living God, and the Great Substitute for those who shall be the heirs of salvation, so Peter would come to know Christ as the One who forgives all Sin. John best tells the story of this great discovery. It happened after the resurrection of Christ. The Lord had something He wanted to ask Peter. But first, Jesus had to find Peter.
That was not hard to do, for Peter had decided he would return to the fishing industry. He went to the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus went there, too. Peter had failed Christ, but Christ would not fail Peter. The Lord would forgive Peter, and use him still in His service for the gifts and calling of grace are without repentance.
Now the greater question is this. ”Do you know the Christ whom Peter knew?” “Do you know the Man of whom we speak?
Some know Christ in an academic sense. They have learned about Him, as students learn about Alexander, Napoleon, or Abraham Lincoln.
Some know Christ superficially. They have learned to call Him “Savior,” but they know nothing of His Lordship over their lives.
Some know Christ formally. They have been brought up in Church and know the gospel stories. Because of a religious inclination they want to serve in the Church and attend the services.
Some know Christ personally. They believe in Him as the risen Lord. They have seen Him with the eye of faith, and touched Him as one personality can touch another.
“How do you know Christ?” “In what way do you know this Man of whom we speak? “
In conclusion, consider some great lessons from this portion of the gospel narrative.
First, the flesh can never be trusted to sustain spiritual life. Peter learned this the hard way. He was too confident in his own bravery, his own determination, his own physical powers. And then the horrible discovery was made. The flesh is weak. The flesh cannot accomplish spiritual work.
Second, the suffering of personal acts of injustice is part of the will of the Lord for our lives. It is part of the cross work that God performs in our hearts. Our example is Christ Himself. Arrested unjustly, slanderously accused, beaten without mercy, shamed without any blushing, Jesus endured many acts of personal injustice and indignity.
In his book, The Divine Conquest, A.W. Tozer writes of what it means to be Spirit filled, and to die to self. There is cross work involved in the ordeal, which is why many Christians chose not to pursue the ethics of the Christian life. For those who are serious about being a Christian, there will be personal acts of injustice that must be endured so that we “may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death” (Phil. 3:10).
Third, it is only through mediation upon our failures that we find godly repentance. The Bible says that when Peter thought upon his sin, he wept (Mark 14:72). Some professing Christians have yet to weep over their sin. Some dried-eyed converts have yet to consider the depth of their transgression, for sin makes the heart cold and callous. Sin robs the soul of feeling.
If you find yourself feeling guilty over sin rejoice for that is a divine work of grace in the soul. Do not suppress the truth. Let the Holy Spirit have His moment of purifying the heart. Weep. Like Peter wept. Sorrow will endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). If we are wise, we will ask God for teardrops of repentance. And if God is gracious, He will answer that prayer in order that we too might know Christ as the Savior of our souls. Amen.