Bible Study 3.12.12, 3.15.12, 3.18.12 For Worship 3.25.12Posted: March 1, 2012
Bible Study 3.12.12, 3.15.12, 3.18.12 For Worship 3.25.12
Mark 14:66-72; Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:25-27
Mark 14:66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the maids of the high priest came;
67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him, and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”
68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway.
69 And the maid saw him, and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”
70 But again he denied it. And after a little while again the bystanders said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.”
71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”
72 And immediately the cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Matthew 26: 69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him, and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”
70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.”
71 And when he went out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”
73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.”
74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the cock crowed.
75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Luke 22: 54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. Peter followed at a distance;
55 and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them.
56 Then a maid, seeing him as he sat in the light and gazing at him, said, “This man also was with him.”
57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.”
58 And a little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not.”
59 And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, “Certainly this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.”
60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed.
61 And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.”
62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
John 18:25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They said to him, “Are not you also one of his disciples?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”
26 One of the servants of the high priest, a kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?”
27 Peter again denied it; and at once the cock crowed.
The story of Peter’s denial occurs in all four canonical gospels. The essentials of the narrative are about the same, but the details vary. John has the shortest, almost truncated, version of the story. John’s version also differs from the others in that Peter is not the only follower of Jesus at the House of the High Priest. The one known as the Beloved Disciple is also there, but because he is “known” to the High Priest, he is allowed inside the house, where presumably he witnesses the trial of Jesus, although he says nothing. The denial of Peter can help us to understand the discussion among scholars whether or not later gospel writers had copies of the earlier written gospels in front of them, or they were writing from the memory of having heard other versions of the gospels read in worship. Most scholars believe the Gospel of Mark was written first. Scholars vigorously debate whether or not a written Passion narrative existed before Mark’s Gospel. Certainly the early church had a highly developed oral narrative of the Last Days of Christ by the time Mark was written. To be sure there can be wide variations in oral narratives, and this may account for some of the differences between our accounts in the canonical gospels.
The earliest followers of Jesus were focused upon the living presence of Christ in their midst. As they shared the story with others who did not know Jesus, they had to fill in background and history. As they developed those shared memories of Jesus, the followers who were most familiar with the Hebrew scriptures began to make connections parallels between the details of the Jesus story and the Torah.
In all four gospels Peter’s denial is matched with a prediction made by Jesus at the Last Supper, that Peter would indeed deny Jesus before the cock crowed – prophecy and fulfillment.
Some scholars have described the Gospel of Mark as a Passion narrative with an extended introduction. This story about the failure of Peter was important to early Christians. They told the story and retold the story, and that is why it has been preserved, and we can presume that it was Peter who first told the story on himself, otherwise it is hard to imagine how this incident might have been preserved. One reason the story seems to be authentic is that it is so consistent with the character of Peter in other stories in the gospel. This is the disciple who refused to let Jesus wash his feet. He was the disciple who first identified Jesus as the Messiah. Peter was the follower who climbed out of the boat during the storm and then sank because of his fear. There is even a tradition that when Nero instituted the persecution of the Christians in Rome, Peter tried to flee the City. As he was walking out of the Rome to escape almost certain arrest and death, he experienced a vision of Jesus walking into the City, and Jesus asked him, “quo vadis,” or “where are you going?” According to tradition Peter turned around and walked back into the City and to his martyrdom.
The story of Peter was important to the early church because many of these narratives portrayed a person who was enthusiastic for Jesus, but at critical moments his courage would fail him. He had more enthusiasm than he had courage, and many, many ordinary believers could identify with his example.
The early Christians were placing themselves directly in opposition to Rome. The Christian affirmation, “Jesus is Lord,” was treason in a world where “Caesar is Lord.” Those early Christians were running an underground subversive faith community, and they were constantly in danger of being found out. The Jerusalem authorities and the Romans, when they arrested Christians offered them mercy if they would renounce Jesus and affirm their faith in the Temple or in the Emperor. The Romans even had a ceremony, where the Christian was supposed to burn a pinch of incense before a statue of the Emperor and swear allegiance to Rome. Many early Christian leaders compared the temptation to renounce Jesus in the face of Roman oppression with the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus.
Personally, I identify with Peter. I don’t like confrontations. Fear brings out the worst in me. Generally speaking I live to fight another day. But how often have I betrayed my vocation by taking the path of least resistance and saving my own skin? The early Christian community was trying to encourage those early followers of Jesus to accept the consequences of remaining faithful to Christ. It ain’t easy.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
- How many disciples were present in the courtyard of the High Priest?
- How many times is Peter identified as a follower of Jesus?
- How many times does he deny knowing Jesus?
- Does Peter attempt to give any explanation for why he is in the courtyard of the High Priest?
- Who all accuse Peter of being a follower of Jesus?
- How many times does the cock crow?
- Does Peter see Jesus after Jesus has been taken into the house of the High Priest?
- What does Peter do after being accused of being a follower of Jesus?
- Where did Peter go to hide?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
- Why do you think Peter followed Jesus to the House of the High Priest?
- Have you ever known someone who was arrested?
- How did their arrest change your relationship with them?
- Why do you think Peter denied knowing Jesus?
- Have you ever been put on the spot by an accusation?
- What is the most cowardly thing you think you’ve done?
- Do you think you have ever failed God?
- Have you ever failed a close friend?
- Were you forgiven?
- If there was something in your life you wish you could change, what would it be?