Sunday School Lesson 9 - Luke 22:54-62 - DENIAL
BACKGROUND: Last week, in Luke 22:41-53, in the Garden of Gethsemane, we observed one of the most powerful and most important scenes in the NT as Jesus completely submitted Himself to the will of God the Father, when He declared, "yet not My will, but Yours be done" (22:42). The main truth we derived from the lesson was that Jesus' struggle of going to the cross was won at prayer in Gethsemane. And in terms of personal application, this powerful example of Jesus teaches us that each of us should have a private place-our own Gethsemane-completely free of outside distractions-where we can pray to God with complete focus, humility, and surrender. We also learned an important truth from the example of Jesus' disciples, who had allowed themselves to fall "asleep" both physically and spiritually. Their example clearly teaches us that when we don't watch, or when we forget to pray, or when we fail to remain spiritually alert, that's when we become most vulnerable to evil temptations, and the forces of evil are all out there waiting for this opportunity.
This week, in Luke 22:54-62, we return to the story after Jesus has been arrested by the Temple police in the Garden of Gethsemane, and His disciples have vanished, fleeing for their lives.
Read Luke 22:54-55 - PETER WAS FOLLOWING AT A DISTANCE
54 Now they arrested Him and led Him away, and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. 55 After they kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter was sitting among them.
v. 54a: "Now they arrested Him and led Him away, and brought Him to the house of the high priest;" - According to John's account (John 18:12-23), before Jesus was brought before Caiaphas, the official High Priest, he was taken to the home of Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas , who was the real power in Jerusalem, and it may be that Annas and Caiaphas shared the same house. This place included a large courtyard surrounded by a protective wall.
v. 54b: "but Peter was following at a distance." - The conjunction "but" contrasts Peter from the other disciples, who, out of stark fear, had completely abandoned Jesus after His arrest. While Peter is still literally "following" Jesus, he's become a 'closet disciple,' one who is afraid to reveal his true identity. This can apply to many believers today who are afraid to speak out in a social situation.
v. 55a: "After they kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together," - Due to low humidity, nighttime temperatures around Jerusalem could drop to 40-deg., hence the need for a fire. The "they" who kindled it were the Temple guards and servants who had arrested Jesus and brought Him to the High Priest's house, where He was to be interrogated.
v. 55b: "Peter was sitting among them." - Though not explained by Luke, Jesus was also being followed by John, who just happened to be acquainted with the High Priest. According to John 18:15-16, John spoke to a girl on duty in the courtyard and persuaded her to allow Peter to come in.
Read Luke 22:56-57 - FIRST DENIAL: I DO NOT KNOW HIM, WOMAN!
56 And a slave woman, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, and staring at him, said, "This man was with Him as well." 57 But he denied it, saying, "I do not know Him, woman!"
v. 56a: "And a slave woman, seeing him as he sat in the firelight, and staring at him," - This is the same woman who had allowed Peter in at John's request (John 18:16-17). Initially, the darkness had hidden his identity, but as he stepped into the firelight, the woman could examine him more closely.
v. 56b: "[the woman] said, "This man was with Him as well." - When recognition dawned, the woman identified "this man"-Peter-as one of Jesus' disciples, and the phrase, "with Him as well," indicates that she also included John as one of them, too.
v. 57: "But he denied it, saying, "I do not know Him, woman!" - In what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction, Peter reflexively blurts out a denial. The word used for "denied" (Gk. arneomai) literally means that it's not true. When he says, "I do not know Him," it's the equivalent of saying I never even met the man. Before any of us condemn Peter, ask yourself if you're brave enough to be a true martyr-to align yourself as a follower of Jesus to the point of risking the penalty of death?
Read Luke 22: 58-60a - SECOND AND THIRD DENIALS
58 And a little later, another person saw him and said, "You are one of them too!" But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" 59 And after about an hour had passed, some other man began to insist, saying, "Certainly this man also was with Him, for he, too, is a Galilean." 60a But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about!"
v. 58a: "And a little later, another person saw him" - Peter was apparently able to extricate himself with the first denial. According to Matthew's account, he was able to move away from the fire and go onto the porch of the house (Matthew 26:71). But after a lapse of time, somebody else recognized him.
v. 58b: and said, "You are one of them too!" But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" - The phrase, "one of them too" indicated that this man positively identified Peter as one of Jesus' disciples. But Peter's abrupt denial, "Man I am not!," is emphatic, denying any kind of association with Jesus whatsoever. Up to this point, Peter has denied Jesus in two specific ways: (1) He denies knowing Him and (2) denied being one of His followers.
v. 59a: "And after about an hour had passed, some other man began to insist," - After the first two denials, Peter seems to have escaped further notice until about an hour later when someone heard him talking.
v. 59b: "saying, 'Certainly this man also was with Him, for he, too, is a Galilean.'" - Peter's accuser this time identifies him because of his distinctive Galilean accent, which was more guttural than Judean speech. After hearing Peter talk, the man insisted that Peter must have been with Jesus, because Jesus was also from Galilee. In other words, why else would a Galilean be here?
v. 60a: "But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about!" - In this third and last denial. Peter not only denies knowing Jesus but denies that he has a Galilean accent, which was probably unmistakable, a dead giveaway. So, in the scope of a couple of hours, this brave spokesmen, Peter, who had promised Jesus he would go to prison and death with Him (Luke 22:33), is now reduced to denying any relationship with the man he had followed for three years.
Read Luke 22:60b-62 - PETER REMEMBERED
60b And immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 And then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times." 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
v. 60b-61: "And immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 And then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, "Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times." - While Peter was still mouthing his denials-like a bolt out of the blue-a rooster crowed! Then he turned his head and saw Jesus looking straight at him. Then he remembered Jesus' words to him: "I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me." (22:34).
v. 62: "And he went out and wept bitterly" - Yes, Peter wept bitterly. He had failed, and failed miserably. And before we judge him, we must remind ourselves that he was a flawed human being just like you and me. No doubt, cowardice and fear played some part in his denials, but there was more to it than that. Peter was physically and emotionally worn out with fatigue, tension, and sorrow. His impulsive and susceptible nature would have been strongly affected by the heartbreaking scenes of this last day: the sight of Jesus bound, unresisting, and evidently at the mercy of the rulers, might well cause the faith of the strongest believer to stagger. Do you see?
APPLICATION: The story of Peter's three denials in today's text should remind us that our failures do not determine our future with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dear God, our Father in heaven, please forgive us when we fall short. And forgive us, Lord, when out of our arrogance, we sometimes try to battle our weaknesses with purely human efforts. Please help us and guide us to trust completely in Your powerful and transforming forgiveness. Help us believe that You can take our failures and past mistakes and use them to encourage and bless others. I ask these things in Jesus' name and for His sake, AMEN.