Formations 06.16.2024: Peter’s Denial

Mark 14:66-72

We love to shake our heads at Peter and act bewildered about his rebukes and denials of Jesus. But he (along with “doubting” Thomas) is probably one of the most honest disciples.

How can an outright lie be honest? Peter stands there by the courtyard fire and pretends three times that he doesn’t know, understand, or have anything to do with Jesus (vv. 68, 70, 71). He even uses foul language and swears an oath to prove his ignorance of Jesus (v. 71). Yes, Peter’s words are dishonest. But his motivations are honest.

Even with Jesus’s repeated warnings about what would happen to him, Peter and the others never quite grasped the reality of it. Now that it has happened, their world is falling apart. This man who led them from ordinary, working lives into the greatest ministry the world has ever seen is betrayed, arrested, questioned, spat on, blindfolded, and beaten (see vv. 43-65). Peter knows what comes after someone is accused of blasphemy. He’s seen the bodies hanging torturously on the crosses. He’s heard the weak cries of the crucified and then heard them go silent as life left them.

Let’s imagine Peter’s feelings as he stands by that fire: confusion, uncertainty, disappointment, hopelessness, sadness, and sheer terror. When confronted with the threat of a connection with Jesus, he does the most honest thing he can amid his fear and desperation: he denies that connection.

After witnessing his beloved friend’s suffering, he responds with the instinct of self-protection, but soon the truth hits him. He is immensely grieved to realize that Jesus’s earlier prediction has come true: ”Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times” (v. 30; v. 72). Imagine Peter’s feelings now: shame, remorse, heartbreak, loss, and repentance.

Sometimes people face shocking and terrifying experiences, and their immediate response is an honest reaction, even if their words and actions aren’t true to who they really are. When people do this, let’s remember Peter and offer them a little grace and time to move past the initial trauma of the moment. And let’s pray they will do the same for us.

Discussion

• When you think of Peter, what qualities come to mind?
• Why do you think Jesus chose a man like him to be his disciple?
• Note that Peter was quick to rebuke Jesus as they traveled in ministry together, acting as if he knew better than Jesus. Now that Jesus is a prisoner sentenced to death, though, Peter claims ignorance. Why do you think it is so easy for him to shift his stance?
• Does Peter’s denial of Jesus make him a bad person?
• Are there ways that you have denied Jesus? How can you accept God’s grace in such situations? How can you offer it to others who need it?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University (BA in English, 2000), has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theatre productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she always has one book going and several more waiting to be read!

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