Peter's Denial: Mark 14:53-72

Day 36
Tuesday in Holy Week,
March 27, 2018
“Peter’s Denial”
Mark 14:53-72

From Gethsemane, the scene shifts in your mental movie to the high priests, with all the temple staff assembled. Is it historic, or structure to the story to put the blame on religious leaders next? 

Peter, hanging back, is by the fire in the courtyard outside, with the guards. 

There’s a form of trial, with lots of false testimony. The charge must be blasphemy – claiming too much for himself or too little for God. But the witnesses don’t prove the point, and confuse the matter. 

Jesus is silent. The high priest asks Jesus if he is the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One. 

Jesus says ‘I am’, and quotes scripture predicting the son will sit at the right hand of God, and will come with the clouds – claiming the way prophets had construed their hope for a messianic figure by God’s side, coming to our side. 

 That amounts to blasphemy, according to the religious boss. He calls for the vote, and ‘so say all of us’. Now he’s open to physical abuse: spitting, blindfolding, striking, taunting, and beating. There’s the model of false justice, against which tribunals since are always measured. 

The remainder of today’s reading is Mark’s basic version of Peter denying Jesus three times, standing around the fire. It’s a servant girl of the high priest who names him as Jesus’ guy, one of the disciples, a Galilean – Peter denies each time, till the cock crows and the prediction is fulfilled. 

 It’s deceptively familiar, this story. 

Mark wants to pin the religious leaders first – even though they could not condemn Jesus to death. You can chase down the elaborations of the other gospels. 

You could try to visualize the scale of the trial… but is it factual, or rhetorical, this account by Mark? 

They took Jesus to the high priest; 
 and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes
were assembled. 

 Peter had followed him at a distance,
right into the courtyard of the high priest; 
and he was sitting with the guards, 
warming himself at the fire. 

Now the chief priests and the whole council
were looking for testimony against Jesus
to put him to death; 
but they found none. 

For many gave false testimony against him,
 and their testimony did not agree. 
Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, 
‘We heard him say,
 “I will destroy this temple
that is made with hands, 
and in three days
I will build another, 
not made with hands.” ’

 But even on this point
their testimony did not agree. 

Then the high priest stood up before them
and asked Jesus, 
‘Have you no answer? 
What is it that they testify against you?’ 

But he was silent
and did not answer. 

Again the high priest asked him, 
‘Are you the Messiah, 
the Son of the Blessed One?’ 

Jesus said, 
‘I am; 
and “you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”, 
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.” ’ 

Then the high priest tore his clothes
and said,
‘Why do we still need witnesses? 
You have heard his blasphemy! 
What is your decision?’ 

All of them condemned him
as deserving death. 

Some began to spit on him, 
to blindfold him, 
and to strike him, 
saying to him, 

The guards also took him over
 and beat him. 

While Peter was below in the courtyard, 
one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 

When she saw Peter warming himself, 
she stared at him and said, ‘
You also were with Jesus,
 the man from Nazareth.’ 

But he denied it, 
‘I do not know
or understand
what you are talking about.’ 

And he went out into the forecourt. 
Then the cock crowed. 

And the servant-girl, 
on seeing him, 
began again
to say to the bystanders,
 ‘This man is one of them.’ 

But again he denied it. 

Then after a little while
the bystanders again said to Peter, 
‘Certainly you are one of them; 
for you are a Galilean.’ 

But he began to curse, 
and he swore an oath,
 ‘I do not know this man you are talking about.’ 

At that moment
the cock crowed
for the second time. 

Then Peter remembered
that Jesus had said to him,
‘Before the cock crows twice, 
you will deny me three times.’ 

And he broke down
and wept.