Peter denies Jesus before others

Outline/Summary

Curses, oaths, and lies

Peter was sitting in the courtyard when a girl approached him, saying, “You were with Jesus of Galilee.”

Peter denies Jesus Christ

But Peter denied her accusation before everyone present. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl approached him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Peter denied it again. With an oath, he said, “I don’t know the man.”

After a while, those who were standing there approached Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them. Your accent gives you away.”

Peter called down curses and swore to them, “I do not know the man!”

At that moment, a rooster crowed.

Then Peter remembered Jesus’ words. “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

And he went outside and wept bitterly.

What the story means to us today

Human frailty and the call for forgiveness

While Jesus was inside being tried, Peter went through his own personal trial – and failed as Jesus had prophesized. When Peter recognized his failure, he wept bitterly. He was devastated that he had hurt Jesus. But we know what Jesus could do – he would forgive him.

If one of the disciples can fail so miserably, anyone can. Even the most devout Christian will fail before God from time to time. The anticipation of failure isn’t a get-out-of-jail-for-free card, though. God expects us to seek forgiveness, learn from our mistakes, and make a focused effort to avoid repeating the mistake. After all, this is why Jesus gave his life for us.

Deeper thoughts and additional considerations

The gospels’ accounts of the three denials

For the most part, Matthew’s account of Peter’s denial of Jesus is consistent with the other gospel accounts, but there are some minor differences.

All gospels record three denials. Matthew and Mark record the three denials as (1) before the servant girl in the courtyard, (2) before a servant girl by the gateway, and (3) before bystanders (seemingly back in the courtyard).

Luke lists the three denials as (1) before a servant girl near a fire, (2) before an unspecified person, and (3) before another unspecified person in the courtyard.

John describes the three denials with a break between them. The first denial takes place before a servant girl at a doorway. The second takes place before a group of people. The final denial occurs before a group of the high priest’s servants.

Peter’s lies under oath

Matthew 26:72 says, “Peter denied it again, with an oath, saying, “I don’t know the man!” It seems Peter literally swore an oath, possibly like, “I swear, I don’t know the man!”

Later, as the accusations against him intensify, the verses say Peter swore again while “calling down curses.” Although the meaning of this phrase is not entirely clear, it is likely that the inclusion of “curses” strengthened his oath, possibly as in, “I swear and hope to die, I do not know the man!”

Regardless, the “oath” would have been frowned upon by Jesus as it was a blatant lie.

Did Peter repent for his lie?

Peter’s repentance was indeed heartfelt. The verses say when he realized what he had done, he went outside and “wept bitterly.” This tells us that Peter knew he had failed Jesus, and the depth of his guilt caused him to weep beyond control. We can presume this was Peter’s sincere repentance for the sin he had done.

Bible text

NIV

69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 

70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 

71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 

72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 

73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” 

74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” 

Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. 

NET Bible

26:69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A slave girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 26:70 But he denied it in front of them all: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” 26:71 When he went out to the gateway, another slave girl saw him and said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.” 26:72 He denied it again with an oath, “I do not know the man!” 26:73 After a little while, those standing there came up to Peter and said, “You really are one of them too—even your accent gives you away!” 26:74 At that he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know the man!” At that moment a rooster crowed. 26:75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. 

NKJV

69 Now Peter sat outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came to him, saying, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.”

70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are saying.”

71 And when he had gone out to the gateway, another girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

72 But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!”

73 And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.”

74 Then he began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!”

Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus who had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” So he went out and wept bitterly.

The Message

      69 All this time, Peter was sitting out in the courtyard. One servant girl came up to him and said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean.”

      70 In front of everybody there, he denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

      71 As he moved over toward the gate, someone else said to the people there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene.”

      72 Again he denied it, salting his denial with an oath: “I swear, I never laid eyes on the man.”

      73 Shortly after that, some bystanders approached Peter. “You’ve got to be one of them. Your accent gives you away.”

      74–75 Then he got really nervous and swore. “I don’t know the man!”

      Just then a rooster crowed. Peter remembered what Jesus had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” He went out and cried and cried and cried.

KJV

69 Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70 But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71 And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72 And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73 And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74 Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.

Image Credits:
• Peter denies Jesus Christ via Brigham Young University Museum of Art by Carl Heinrich Bloch with usage type - Public Domain, 1865

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• Peter denies Jesus before others via