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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on July 2, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, July 2, 2017 from Mark 14:66-72

Theme: When we begin to deny our Lord, we don’t just plateau-out, but instead grow deeper in our downward slide.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

We come this morning to an important story in the Gospel of Mark. It’s a story about the apostle Peter. And I feel pretty sure that, if he were here with us this morning, he would say that it was the most terrible failure of all his life.

I also believe, though, that it’s a story that Peter would want very much for us to learn from.

It’s found in Mark 14; and it’s the event of what happened immediately after our Lord Jesus had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, and then taken to the living quarters of the Jewish high priest Caiaphas—where our Lord was tried by the leading Jewish council. The high priest had asked Him the question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And after our Lord had answered with a bold and clear ‘yes’, He was found guilty of blasphemy, and sentenced to death, was beaten and spat upon and mocked, and was finally taken away to be turned over to the Roman governor for execution.

All of the apostles had fled from him. And yet, as we’re told in Mark 14:54, “But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.” Peter had ‘followed’; but he followed at a distance—and in such a way as to not be associated with the Lord. And then came his sad failure. Mark tells us; beginning with verse 66;

Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept (Mark 14:66-72).

And here, we find the story of an event that impacted Peter’s life from then on—the story of his sad denial of the Lord that he loved so much.

* * * * * * * * * *

We who are followers of Jesus all rightly love the apostle Peter. Many of us identify very readily with him. But it has been sadly typical of many in the body of Christ to look down on him just a little bit. The Bible is pretty honest about the many times in which Peter had ‘blown-it’ in his walk with the Savior; and those failings sometimes take a dominate position in our thinking about him.

Our thinking of him often majors in the times when he opened his mouth and spoke; and then got himself into trouble for doing so. We think of that one occasion when he dared to rebuke the Lord—and when the Lord then turned around and said, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Or there was the time when he wanted to know how the apostle John would give up his life for the Lord—and the Lord had to tell him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” We think of the time when he sank while walking on the water, or that time when he got carried away and tried to cut off the high priest’s servants ear, or that time when he boasted that he would never abandon the Lord—a boast that still makes us wince, or even that time we’re told about in the Book of Galatians when Paul had to rebuke him for not being ‘straightforward’ about the gospel. The Bible is pretty honest about his failings. And since many of those stories are also told to us in the Gospel of Mark—and since, as tradition has it, Mark received this Gospel from the words of Peter—we could also say that Peter himself was pretty honest about his own failings.

But have you ever thought about what a truly great man this man Peter was?—in spite of his failings? Early on in Jesus’ earthly ministry, Peter was one of the first men to leave everything and follow him. Peter was the only one of the disciples to get out of the boat and walk with Jesus on the water. Peter was that one disciple who gave that great declaration, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”—a declaration that Jesus said was given to Peter by God the Father Himself, and that upon which Jesus would build His church.

As you read the Gospels, you see very clearly that Peter was in the lead position of the apostles of our Lord; and that whether for right or wrong, he led the others in declaring that they all would never deny Him and would willingly die for Him. After our Lord’s resurrection and ascension, Peter remained in the lead position over the apostles; and after the Holy Spirit came, Peter preached that bold sermon in Jerusalem in Acts 2—preached to the very ones that crucified our Lord—that led to over three-thousand people becoming followers of Jesus in just one day! It was Peter who was ordered by the authorities to quit preaching about Jesus; and who then boldly told them, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” It was Peter who first got thrown into prison for preaching that message—and who was then let out of jail by an angel so he could keep on preaching! It was Peter who took the lead in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to his own Jewish kinsmen; and it was Peter who first introduced that gospel to the Gentile world. It was through Peter that we have three important books of the New Testament: 1 Peter, 2 Peter and (indirectly) the Gospel of Mark. And it was Peter who, according to the promise of our Lord, eventually laid down his life for his beloved Savior.

We should never forget what a great man our elder brother in the Lord, the apostle Peter, truly was. And I suggest to you that it was because he was such a great man that the story of his denial of our Lord is so important for us to learn from. If such a great and devoted follower of Jesus Christ as Peter—at a time when he fell from dependency upon the Lord—could then be made very easily to deny the Lord he loved so much, then we should never think that we could do better than him whenever we lose our own sense of dependency on Jesus and try to operate in the power of the flesh.

We should remember that, even though Peter failed, the Lord Jesus knew in advance that he would fail—and still loved him anyway, and still promised to place him in a position of great ministry. In Luke 22, we’re told that the Lord Jesus once told him;

Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:31-34).

Did you catch that? Even though Jesus knew in advance that Peter would deny him, He nevertheless told him, “when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” In spite of Peter’s failure, Jesus still had a great future for him of leadership and ministry. I draw great comfort from the story of Peter’s failure; because it reminds me that the Lord also knows perfectly well in advance when I will fail Him—and yet He loves me and puts me into service anyway.

And may I suggest to you that the personal importance of this story to you and me also shines forth when we remember the circumstances in which it occurred? It was at Jesus’ time of agony, betrayal, arrest, trial and crucifixion. It was at a time when everyone was running and hiding; because the whole world, and the very forces of hell itself, were all fighting to destroy our Savior and His cause. After all, why did Peter deny the Lord? Wasn’t it out of fear of what might happen to him, during that time of trouble, if he was associated with the Lord? We live in trying times for the message of the gospel too; and for many around the world, the temptations for devoted followers of Jesus to deny Him before men have hardly ever been greater than they are today.

There is, then, a great and very practical lesson we’re to learn from Peter’s experience. It’s a lesson that we discover as we see the way that the three denials of our Lord that were made by Peter—the great apostle Peter!—grew stronger and more bolder and more shocking with each successive denial. It’s a lesson that encourages us to never lose our sense of utter dependency upon the enabling power of Christ—and to never begin to go down that road of ‘denial’ of our Savior out of the fear of man.

Because, as this passage clearly shows us, when we begin to deny our Lord, we don’t just plateau-out, but instead grow deeper in our downward slide.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Let’s walk through this passage step-by step (a painful, but necessary thing to do); and see together how this warning is shown to us.

Look first at verses 66-67. We’d already been told that Peter was down in the courtyard—warming himself by the fire along with the servants of the chief priest. And then we’re told;

Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth” (vv. 66-67).

Do you notice that this young girl—a servant in the household of the chief priest—looked upon Peter in two stages? First, we’re told that she ‘saw’ him by the fire. But then, we’re told that she ‘looked at’ him in a way that speaks of a more intense gaze—as if she began thinking carefully about the man she was seeing. And then, do you notice how she speaks rather definitively to him?—no doubt because of that second and much more intense gaze? She doesn’t simply say, “Excuse me; aren’t you one of Jesus’ followers?” Instead, in the original language, she speaks emphatically; as if to say, “Even you—you were with Jesus …!”

I wonder if—like me—you’ve ever thought to yourself how it could be that she would know that. I think I have an answer. And if true, it’d be something that would help underscore the fear that might have suddenly taken hold of Peter. In John’s Gospel, when he tells us this story, he writes;

One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” (John 18:26).

Apparently, some of the chief priest’s servants had been in the garden when Jesus was arrested—and had even seen Peter draw the sword and cut-ff that one particular servant’s ear. It may even be that this young girl was there and saw it too. It may be that she was identifying Peter as someone who had dared to make an attempt on the life of the servant of the high priest. No wonder Peter would have been caught off guard with fear.

And then came Peter’s fumbling response. We’re told in verse 68,

But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying” (v. 68a).

And I’d like to suggest to you that this was a first stage in a downward slide in Peter’s denial. We might call it …


You will have to admit—it was a rather lame statement. How could it be that a man sitting in the very court of the chief priest’s home on that very night—being as he was in Jerusalem of Judea, where everyone else was talking about Jesus—would not know or understand what the young girl was saying?

It was a ridiculously desperate response; and one that, I suspect, would have only aroused the young girl’s suspicions even more. But I wonder if it isn’t something like what we—as followers of Jesus today—sometimes ourselves fall into.

If you are a follower of Jesus, then it will inevitably be that someone will notice. They will see something different in your life. They will see that you are more honest in your dealings than others; or that your way of talking is more wholesome. It may even be that they see in you a hopefulness and quiet joy that stands out in times of trouble or difficulty. And it may be that someone would walk up to you and say, “I see something different in you. What is it about you? Why are you happy all the time? Why are you at peace when everything seems to be going wrong?” And if we’re living in a time when the Christian faith is mocked or treated with hostility—such as ours so often seems to be—then you might be caught off guard, be tempted to fear, then shrug and say, “Oh, I don’t know … I’m just that way, I guess”; instead of boldly and confidently saying that you are a follower of the Lord Jesus, and that He makes a difference in your life.

In his later years, Peter wrote;

And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed (1 Peter 3:13-16).

That “fear” that Peter there speaks of is, I believe, best understood as a reverential fear of God. But sometimes, we misplace our fear by directing it toward people instead; and we then are silent when we should speak—and we find that we’re not ‘ready’ to give an answer for the true reason for our hope. And I believe that Peter’s story is meant to help urge upon us not to take that first step downward—not to clam-up when we should speak—not to hide our light under a bushel.

When we make that first step into denial, we don’t just plateau-out in a ‘safe place’ of ‘keeping our religion to our selves’. We begin to take a slide downward in our denial that gets worse and worse—unless and until we repent of our fear of man.

* * * * * * * * * *

From that point, Peter’s own slide downward got more intense. We’re told this about what happened after muttering his lame denial to the young servant girl;

And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed (v. 68b).

Not every translation of the Bible includes those words in verse 68 about the rooster crowing. But it must be that a rooster did indeed crow at that time; because we’re told that there was a second crowing later in this passage. And that makes me think that at the sound of that first crowing, Peter had a chance to repent. He could have remembered—then and there—what the Lord had told him; and he could have turned away from his fear of man and made it clear that he was indeed a follower of Jesus. But he didn’t. Instead, he slipped away from the situation and made his way out to the porch of the courtyard.

And I suggest to you that this only made that astute young servant girl all the more suspicions about Peter. She was, after all, very good at her job as a servant of the high priest. In verse 69, we’re told,

And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them” (v. 69).

The phrase “those who stood by” is a translation of a word that’s put in what’s called ‘the perfect tense’. And it would suggest that she spoke to established members of the chief priest’s household staff who were on duty. If she, indeed, recognized Peter as one of the followers of Jesus—and particularly, the one who had used the sword—then she naturally would have gained the attention of the other staff members and pointed him out to them.

It’s interesting to notice that, in Matthew’s Gospel, we’re told that it was another girl who said this. And I believe that what might have happened is that the first girl who had previously seen Peter, and had recognized him, may have gotten another servant girl who had also seen him and had recognized him; and together they went to report on him.

In verse 70, Mark tells us simply, “But he denied it again” (v. 70a). But I hope you’ll let me share how it was put in Matthew’s account. There, we’re told;

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.” But again he denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” (Matthew 26:71-72).

And here, I suggest we see another stage in Peter’s downward turn …


Now, he was no longer just pretending to be ignorant about Jesus. He was crossing the line into lying about his relationship with Him. He was even beginning to use oaths to give strength to his lie.

You see; as followers of Jesus, our relationship with Him is everything. We are utterly dependent upon Him; and without Him, we can do nothing. We can’t even stand faithfully for Him without standing in complete dependency upon Him. Once we begin to deny Him, and begin to separate ourselves from that relationship of spiritual dependency upon Him, we begin increasingly to operate on our own power—that is, in the power of the flesh. And as a result, we begin to grow worse and worse in our denial of Him.

Mark goes on to tell us that a little time passed. And it must have been that Peter’s heart convicted him because of what he had already done. But then, he fell in his denial to an unspeakable degree. In verse 70. as it is in the translation I’m using, we’re told;

And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it” (v. 70b).

It must be that, as Peter was standing by in the porch of the chief priest’s quarters, someone heard him speaking—and they could pick up on a definite ‘Galilean’ drawl. The concerns of the servant girl were becoming more and more credible; and they confronted him about it. And that’s when we’re told;

Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” (v. 71).

How terribly desperate Peter became in his denial! In order to hide his association with Jesus, he began to talk in the language of the unbelieving people of this world—no doubt falling back on the kind of talk he used back in the days before he had met the Lord. He actually began to hide his association with Jesus by behaving like those who have no association with Him! Here, we see a final stage in Peter’s downward slide …


Now; I believe that Peter slid about as far down as he could slide at that moment. But I’m careful to say that he slid only as far as he—by God’s grace—could have slid. You see; even though he was denying the Lord Jesus, Peter still belonged to the Lord Jesus. His, we might say, was a ‘backslide’ in his walk with the Lord; but not a complete ‘apostasy’ from the Lord.

And one reason we can know this is because of what happened next. In the original language, Mark uses one of his favorite words, “immediately”. And that word is found in some of your translations. It was no sooner than Peter had uttered his third and most dreadful denial, that

A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept (v. 72).

We know that Peter was not completely lost to the Lord, because he experienced …


I believe that his broken heart over this failure affected him for a long time. Even after our Lord rose from the dead, it seems that Peter felt ashamed. But what a tender and forgiving Savior he served. Do you remember what the angel told the women who came early in the morning to the tomb. Look at it. It’s just a little ahead in the Gospel of Mark—in Mark 16:6-7. The angel told them;

Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you” (Mark 16:6-7).

“And Peter …” The Lord knew that Peter needed special encouragement. And the Lord gave it to him; and fully restored him.

And the rest—we can gratefully say—is history.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; given Peter’s experience, let’s suppose that he was our guest speaker in our church today. If he was, you can be sure that I wouldn’t be standing her speaking to you! He would! And if he preached from this passage instead of me, what do you suppose he would want to tell us?

I’m sure that he would tell us about the grace of our Lord. He would assure us that our Savior is a greatly forgiving Savior; and that even when we fail Him—even when we deny Him out of fear—He is still able to restore us and use us. I believe that Peter would urge us to confess our failure, and that he would remind us of the example of his own story, and that he would invite us to come to Jesus for full forgiveness.

I think Peter might want to tell us not to be too harsh toward others who fail to stand for the Lord as they should. He would point out to us that, after all, he—the great apostle Peter, the Rock, the one on whose testimony the Lord said He would built the church—failed the Lord dreadfully; even denying Him with swearing and oaths. If Peter could be forgiven for such a horrible failure, then we should certainly be ready to forgive each other for our failures.

But I think he would also want to urge us not to go down that road of denial in the first place—not even one step. I think he would remind us of how we don’t simply stay in one place spiritually when we begin to deny the Lord. Such a denial cuts us off us from our utter dependency upon Jesus Himself; and once we begin to deny Him and begin to stand in the power of the flesh, we slide further downward into even worse levels of denial. He would urge us to trust in the enabling power of our Lord Jesus—to utterly depend upon Him—and to open our mouths and confess that we belong to Him. He will stand with us and uphold us when we do.

To some degree, I don’t really have to guess all that much about what Peter would tell us; because I believe we can find it in what he said in 1 Peter 4:12-19. Let’s remember his good words of exhortation every time we feel the temptation and the pressure to deny our Lord:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now

If the righteous one is scarcely saved,

Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:12-19).

Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

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