Harmony of the Gospels


(28) Peter’s Triple Denial

Scripture: Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Mark 14:54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62 (focal passage); John 18:15-18, 25-27

Tom Lowe



We have here the sad story of Peter’s denying his Master, at the time when He was arraigned before the high priest. Peter’s betrayal is reported in all four Gospels, which indicates something of the importance the Gospel writers saw in this defection of the disciples’ leader.

Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And [TL1]Peter followed [TL2]afar off.  (Luke 22:54)
But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. (Matthew 26:58)
 And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire. (Mark 14:54)
 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. (John 18:15)
But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter. (John 18:16)

Jesus’ captors tied Him up and led Him from the Garden of Gethsemane to the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas. Some Bible scholars believe that Christ was led by a chain that was placed around His neck.
When the Lord was brought into the high priest’s house, Peter followed at a distance. He is about to discover how easy it is to make a promise ([1]Mk 14:29–31), and how hard it is to fulfill. However, by just following Christ and His captors he showed that he was concerned for his Master. We can commend him for that, but why did he do it? Could it be that he wanted to be safe, to satisfy his conscience, out of curiosity, or to save his reputation? We are not told, but each of us may venture a guess. The Apostle John reports that another disciple was with Peter, and both followed the crowd right into the courtyard of Caiaphas. The other disciple is unknown, but may well have been John, the son of Zebedee. This disciple knew the high priest and therefore had access into the high priest’s courtyard. Therefore, he was in a unique position to know what was going on and to get Peter into the courtyard.

And when they had [TL3]kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down [TL4]among them. (Luke 22:55)

Peter continued to keep his distance by associating himself with the high priest’s servants, when he should have been at his master’s elbow.

The servants kindled a fire in the midst of the hall and sat down together, to talk over their night-expedition to capture Jesus. Probably Malchus, the man whose ear Peter cut off and Jesus healed, was among them; and Peter sat down among them, as if he was one of them, at least he wanted them to think he was. His fall into disgrace was disclaiming all acquaintance with Christ, and relation to him, disowning him because he was now in distress and danger.

But a certain [TL5]maid [TL6]beheld him as he sat by the fire, and [TL7]earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.  (Luke 22:56)
Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. (Matthew 26:69)
And as Peter was [TL8]beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest. (Mark 14:66)
And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. . (Mark 14:67)
Then saith the damsel that kept the door unto Peter, Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples? He saith, I am not. (John 18:17)

Inside, he took his place with those who were warming themselves at a fire in the center of the courtyard. It was a cold spring evening. Jerusalem being about 2,500 feet above sea level would definitely have cold evenings. This little detail about the cold evening is another indication that the author of John’s Gospel was an eyewitness.

A servant girl, who was the doorkeeper in Annas’ house, looked across at Peter and exclaimed that he was one of the followers of Jesus. Perhaps, while at the Temple she had seen Jesus there and Peter with Him, and now she remembered him and said This man was also with him.

And he [TL9]denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. (Luke 22:57)
But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. (Matthew 26:70)
And the servants and officers (solders or palace guards) stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself. (John 18:18)

John 13:13-18 says that this first denial took place while Jesus was being examined by Annas, father-in-law of Caiaphas. It could be that the houses of Annas and Caiaphas shared a common courtyard. Both could have lived at the palace, since Caiaphas was the high priest and Annas his father-in-law was High priest emeritus.
Peter did not have enough courage to admit he was a disciple of the Lord Jesus, and likewise, he did not have the presence of mind to know how to stop this woman’s allegations, and therefore he emphatically and plainly denies it: Woman, I know him not.

Peter’s denial was wicked and sinful; he even cursed and swore in his denial ([2]Mark 14:71). However, he was no more sinful than any of us. His denial of Christ to the servant girl was a striking contrast to his earlier boast to lay down his life for Jesus ([3]John 13:37), and his show of offence in cutting off Malchus’ ear. Evidently, the other disciple was also in danger (perhaps greater), but he did not deny Jesus.

And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art (you are,) also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.  (Luke 22:58)
And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. (Matthew 26:71)
And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. (Matthew 26:72)
 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. . (Mark 14:68)
And Simon Peter stood and warmed himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He denied it, and said, I am not. (John 18:25)

Shortly afterwards, someone else pointed the accusing finger at Peter as one of the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. For the second time Peter denied the accusation.

And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a [TL10]Galilaean (a native of Galilee, having a peculiar accent and dialect.). (Luke 22:59)
And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee. (Matthew 26:73)
And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. . (Mark 14:69)
One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him? (John 18:26)

And for the third time, and after about an hour had passed another confidently asserts, "Of a truth this fellow also was with him, let him deny it if he can, for you can all see he is a Galilean.’’ Peter had lied twice already, so he must continue the lie. John adds that the final question was asked by a relative of Malchus, whom Peter had tried to kill in the garden.

And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. (Luke 22:60)
Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. (Matthew 26:74)
And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto. . (Mark 14:70)
But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.  (Mark 14:71)
Peter then denied again: and immediately the cock crew. (John 18:27)

This time Peter not only denies that he is a disciple of Christ, but that he knows any thing about him: "Man, I know not what thou sayest; I never heard of this Jesus.’’ A comparison of the Gospel accounts shows that some people are talking to Peter and some are talking about him. Accusations are flying in from every direction. This is enough to get anyone excited, especially excitable Simon! He answers, “Man, I know not what thou sayest.” Peter not only denied that he knew Jesus, but as Matthew wrote He began to curse and swear. He must have said something like, “May God do this or that to me if it is true that I am or ever was a disciple of Jesus.” He stands there invoking on Himself One curse upon another. And the louder this Galilean talks, the more, without realizing it, He is saying to all those standing around, “I am a Liar.”

What happened next was probably this: Jesus, His night trial ended, was being led across the court to His prison cell, from which in a few hours He would be led once more before the Sanhedrin.
The cock crew just as he was denying that he knew Christ, for the third time. There is some difference of opinion over what is meant by the cock crew. First, it may be as simple as a rooster crowed. I think this is what happened, God who can control any creature made the rooster crow at this exact time. Second, some believe it could refer to the night watches, which were set up for security reasons. The change in personnel on a watch was announced by a loud sound. There were two “cockcrowings,” one after midnight, the other before dawn. This was the Roman method of dividing the night, but it was also how the Jews did it.

And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice (three times). (Luke 22:61)
And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:75)

And the Lord turned, and [TL11]looked upon Peter with eyes full of pain. This was one of Peter’s lowest points. He had publicly denied Christ three times. Later, Christ made Peter publicly confess three times that he loved his Lord ( [4]John 21:15–19).

This short event is not mentioned by the other evangelists, but it is a very remarkable one. Christ is here called the Lord, for there is a great deal of power and grace involved with the actions of our Lord. Although Christ now had his back turned to Peter, and was occupied with his trial (when, one would think, he had nothing else on His mind), yet he knew all that Peter said. Note, Christ takes more notice of what we say and do than we think he does.

When Peter disowned Christ, Christ did not disown him, although He would have been justified if He threw him away, and never looked at him again, and deny him before his Father. We should be glad that Christ does not deal with us as we deal with him.

Christ looked upon Peter, but this does not mean that He doubted Peter would soon be aware of it. He knew that, although he had denied him with his lips, yet his eye would still be towards him. Although Peter was guilty of a very great offence, Christ would not call out to him, because He did not want to shame him or expose him.  He only looked at Him in a way that only Peter would understand the meaning of that look. Power went along with this look, to change the heart of Peter. Now, "Peter remembered the words of the Lord;’’ remembered the prediction that before the rooster crows, he would deny Him three times.

There was someone else there that day to observe the proceedings; Satan was in the court. Satan was in the courtyard to sift Peter and in the council chamber to lead the men astray. But his victory over Peter was only temporary, since the apostle wept, repented, and was restored. His victory over the religious leaders was complete, since he blinded their eyes to the truth ([5]2 Cor. 4:3–6) and they condemned their own Messiah.

And Peter went out (outside), and [TL12]wept [TL13]bitterly. (Luke 22:62)

One look from Christ melted him into tears of godly sorrow over His cowardly sin.

The early church understood that once the Holy Spirit came into your life, it would never again be the same! Much of that understanding was related to the fact that the Greek and Hebrew words for spirit are also the same words used for breath. The first Christians knew that the presence of the spirit in their lives was their literal breath of life. On the day of Pentecost, not only was the “breath” provided that made spiritual language possible, but the “spirit” that energized a whole lifestyle change was present as well. As an example, compare this passage, Peter on the night of Jesus’ death with Peter on the day of Pentecost (see Acts 2:14–41). It is the presence of the Holy Spirit which also produces the fruits of a lifestyle filled with God’s love and power. Galatians 5:22, 23 clearly declares that Holy Spirit fullness is more than merely language. It is also the fullness of the One who is changing us into the likeness of our Savior.



[TL1] PE´TER (a rock or stone). The original name of this disciple was Simon, i.e., “hearer.” He was the son of a man named Jonas, Matt. 16:17; John 1:42; 21:16, and was brought up in his father’s occupation, that of a fisherman. Peter was probably between thirty and forty years of age at the date of his call. That call was preceded by a special preparation. Peter and his brother Andrew, together with their partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were disciples of John the Baptist when he was first called by our Lord.

[TL2] AFAR OFF makran, “far,” Matt. 8:20 (KJV, “a good way”; RV, “afar”), “a long way off.”

[TL3] KINDLED A FIRE.   haptō,  to set on fire:— kindle, light.

[TL4] MIDST mesos { mes’-os}.  Middle; in the midst of, amongst.

[TL5] MAID paidiskē, pahee-dis´-kay; a female slave or servant:— bondmaid, damsel.

[TL6] BEHELD ĕidō, i´-do; to see, to know:— be aware, behold, consider, look (on), perceive.

[TL7] EARNESTLY LOOKED--atenizo { at-en-id’-zo} look steadfastly, behold steadfastly, fasten (one’s) eyes, look earnestly on, behold earnestly, to fix the eyes on, gaze upon.

[TL8] the uncovered court-yard of the house. In the O.T. particularly of the courts of the tabernacle and of the temple in Jerusalem. The dwellings of the higher classes usually had two, one exterior, between the door and the street; the other interior, surrounded by the buildings of the dwelling itself.

[TL9] DENIED arneomai { ar-neh’-om-ahee} to deny, abnegate, abjure—renounce, disavow, disown; not to accept, to reject, to refuse something offered.

[TL10] Galileans spoke Aramaic with a heavy guttural accent.

[TL11] Looked upon, emblepo { em-blep’-o} to turn one’s eyes on, look at, look at with the mind, to consider

[TL12] AND WEPT--klaio { klah’-yo} to mourn for, lament.

[TL13] BITTERLY— pikros { pik-roce’} with poignant grief, harsh, powerful.

________________________Scripture Reference______________________
 [1] (Mark 14:29-31) But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. But He saith, I am not. he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.

 [2](Mark 14:71) But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

 [3](John 13:37) “Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake.”  With typical devotion and enthusiasm, Peter expressed willingness to die for the Lord. He thought he could endure martyrdom by his own strength. Later he actually did die for the Lord, but it was because he had been given special strength and courage by God. 

 [4](John 21:15–19) So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.  This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

 [5](2 Cor. 4:3–6) But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Click here to edit

click "like" and share if you found this Bible Study helpful. 

Make a Free Website with Yola.