Theme: Two Dramas in One Story
In this week’s lessons, we look at the story of Peter’s denial, and see that no matter our sins, we can be forgiven and restored because of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf.
Scripture: Matthew 26:75
There were two dramas taking place in the city of Jerusalem on Good Friday. We can call them the greater one and the lesser one, though if we had been Peter, we probably wouldn’t have considered that lesser drama unimportant. The great drama was the story of the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The lesser drama, which was taking place at the same time, was the denial of Jesus Christ by Peter.
We have to understand something of the setting. The little band of disciples and Jesus had made their way out of the city on the night of the arrest in the direction of Bethany, where they had been spending each night of the Passover week, and they had stopped in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Lord Jesus Christ wanted to pray, and He prayed for a long time. It was while they were there that the arresting party came. Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss, and then Jesus was arrested.
When He was, the band of disciples scattered. They didn’t scatter to Jerusalem, of course. That was the source of the danger. They obviously scattered away from Jerusalem, back up over the Mount of Olives, to Bethany, where they probably hoped to regroup and find one another once again. Peter was among the number, and must have scattered when the others did.
But he was also a brave man, and after he had run quickly in the panic and fright of the moment, he stopped and realized that nobody was pursuing him. The danger was past. He turned around, looked in the direction of the arresting party, and must have noticed the torches of the soldiers as they led Jesus, now under arrest, down the side of the Mount of Olives to the Valley of Kidron, and then up the little path that led to the gate of the city. And having stopped in his flight, he turned and began to follow after the arresting party.
Probably somewhere along the line, he met up with John because later on in the story, we find that only John and Peter are present in the city. At any rate, Peter followed the arresting party to the courtyard of the high priest. They had taken Jesus inside. Peter couldn’t go in there, but he waited outside in the courtyard. And while our Lord was being tried, Peter warmed himself at the fire of those who were responsible for the arrest.
It’s while he was there that a servant girl came up to him. She thought she recognized him, and said, “You were with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it, answering, “No, I wasn’t.” A little while later, another servant girl made the same accusation. Then, finally, a group of them gathered around and said about Peter, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth. You’re one of them. Your accent gives you away.” We’re told that this time, he denied the accusation so forcefully that he actually called down curses upon himself. When he denied this time, the third time, a rooster crowed, and he remembered the prophecy of Jesus Christ, who said, “Before the rooster crows you will have denied me three times.” The story ends by telling us that he went outside and wept bitterly.
Now I never think of that story without also thinking of two other great passages of the Bible that have bearing upon it, at least in my mind. One is the first psalm. You recall that the very first verse of the first psalm describes those who walk in the counsel of the wicked, stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of mockers. That certainly described Peter. He had begun by walking after those who had arrested his Master. He stood around with them, warming his hands in the courtyard of the high priest. Finally, at the end, he’s sitting there in their midst—a great picture of what had happened to them that night. That psalm also describes him in another way, because a little further on in the psalm, it speaks of the chaff which the wind drives away, and Peter was certainly like chaff that night. The wind blew upon him, he was buffeted about by the temptation, and he didn’t fare well.
From the lesson, what two dramas are taking place in the passage?
How is Psalm 1 suggested as connecting to this story?
Reflection: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where public pressure tempted you to shrink back from taking a stand for what you knew was right? Pray that the Lord would give you courage to honor him.