Mark 14:66-72 Peter Disowns Jesus
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by.
67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out
into the entryway.
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one
of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a
71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had
spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
“I don’t know this man!”
Peter says this. It is clear that he thinks that he is lying, but is he? This has got to be the worst day in Peter’s life,
so far. He can’t believe that this is happening.
Have you ever thought that you knew someone, but suddenly they did something or revealed something that made
you realize that they were not the person you thought? It can happen in a romantic relationship or as in this case a
friendship. It can be a politician. Often it can be misplaced worship. You have pinned all your hopes and dreams to
this person who seemed like a dream come true, only to find out that they are indeed … a person, a person who
has their own hopes and fears. A person who makes mistakes. A person who isn’t who you thought they were, and
it can be hugely disappointing. You saw what you wanted to see even if that person gave repeated clues that they
were different. Of course, you can only see that later, after hopes have been dashed, after the life you dreamed of
Now, Jesus didn’t make mistakes, and he certainly is some worthy of our worship. He actually tried to explain to
the disciples on more than one occasion that success for him meant that he was going to have to die. Peter even
took him to task at least once when he talked about that (Mark 8:31-33). From the disciples’ perspective, it is the
failed messiahs that get killed. If they want to have a successful movement, or even revolution from Roman rule,
Jesus couldn’t go around talking about getting killed. They believed that he was the Messiah. There’s no doubt
about that (Mark 8:29), but they thought that they knew what that meant.
Besides, the Jesus they saw everyday was a man of incredible power. This was a man who could heal the sick,
cure leprosy for crying out loud. Who else could do that?! Nobody, that’s who. He could turn 5 loaves and 2 fish
into enough food to feed over 5000 people! He could get a crowd of over 5000 to listen to his teachings. He could
stop a storm with his voice. He could WALK ON WATER! Not only that, he could pass that power onto other
people. Sending out first the twelve and then the 70 to go out and heal people. Who can do that? He has to be
the Messiah! Surely, this powerful man will be able to expel the Romans, maybe even more than that.
They didn’t want to hear that the pathway to success, to goals far beyond what the disciples were thinking, our
eternal salvation, meant Jesus’ death. That wasn’t what they wanted to hear. What they were hearing didn’t make
any sense, didn’t match with the power that they saw Jesus display on a daily basis for 2-3 YEARS. By the time he
got to the part where he would be raised on the third day, they were no longer listening. Besides, that didn’t make
any sense either. Many of them believed in a general resurrection of the dead at the end of the world, but they
knew that people who have been dead for three days, don’t just come back to life. Well, Lazarus did, but it was
Jesus who called him from the tomb (John 11:1–44). They never had met or heard of anyone else who could do
anything like that. If Jesus wasn’t around to do it, how could it be possible? It just didn’t make any sense, so they
discounted it. They concentrated on what did make sense.
Then this night, their whole world was turned upside down. First, all the strange things that happened and were
said at their Passover meal, the arrest in the garden, and now Jesus being taken in to be interrogated by the high
priest. This can’t be happening!
“I don’t know this man!”
No, Peter didn’t know this man, and as their representative by extension, neither did any of the disciples. Even
when Jesus tried to explain things to them, they didn’t know what he was talking about at least half the time. Back
in Mark 4, he tells them the parable of the sower. The farmer liberally spreads seed all over the place, on rocks,
among thorns, with shallow soil, and on the good soil. Not surprisingly, the seed only thrives in the good soil.
Jesus is amazed that the disciples, who have been traveling with him and listening to his teaching for a while,
need to have this parable explained to them (4:13). They are amazed and perplexed about the feeding of the
(Mark 8:17) and when Jesus walks on water (Mark 6:52).
Right up to the end, Peter argued with Jesus when Jesus tried to explain what was going to happen that very
27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
28 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
29 Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself
will disown me three times.”
31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the
others said the same. (Mark 14:27-31)
And it happened, just as Jesus said. None of them wanted to believe it. None of them wanted to believe him.
If he was the Messiah, just as he had confirmed to them many times in many ways, this couldn’t happen. He
couldn’t be arrested. He couldn’t be executed. If that happened, it meant that all this time, despite everything
they saw, he couldn’t be the one that they thought. How wrong they were.
“I don’t know this man!”
When the rooster crows, Peter loses his last bit of composure. Jesus predicted it. Despite how sure he was that
he would never deny Jesus. He did. How could Jesus have known if they were wrong about him? How could he
be inside this building under arrest having God knows what happening to him if they were right?
We know that the disciples WERE right about him, even if they didn’t understand completely, even if they had a
wrong idea of how it would all work. But why would this be such a prominent story in all four of the gospels? It
is humiliating for Peter, who would become, as Jesus said, a great leader in building the Jesus movement.
By the time the gospels were being written, many of the Christian communities had begun to face real
persecution. At first, they were considered a Jewish sect by the Roman government, and so they had some
protections. However, once more and more Gentiles entered the movement and the Jewish groups shunned
these Christian communities, they were expected to participate in Roman life. Failure to do that was considered
The questioning that Christians would receive would be much harsher than from the servant girl that pressed
Peter. Would they be able to remain firm in the faith when Peter crumbled? In the second and third centuries,
people from high social status to servant girls and slaves were sent to their death rather than deny their faith in
Jesus. Peter’s negative example was an inspiration to do better.
Peter can be an inspiration to us too. He was overwhelmed by exhaustion and fear. He was hanging out with the
guards in the courtyard. He knew if he gave the wrong answer, he could be in that house standing right next to
Jesus. Faced by hostile questions, he denied any knowledge of Jesus.
Today, we can face the problem of denial as well. In the United States, it usually doesn’t come down to a choice of
life and death though in many parts of the world it can. It usually comes as a matter of humiliation and public
ridicule. Let’s be honest. It can be very difficult to endure. The questioning can come in many forms.
“You aren’t one of those Jesus-freaks are you?”
“It’s okay to be interested in Jesus. He was a great teacher, but you don’t really believe in him, do you?
Or it might be a little more subtle. People know that you claim to be a Christian, but they ask you to sign in for
them at work if they don’t make it in. “Could you just help me out this once? No one will ever know.”
“Would you like to make a little on the side? Everybody does it.”
Or you see someone being bullied or accosted on the street. Verbally, physically? What do you do? Do you pass
on by? “It’s not my business.” Or, do you get involved in some way? Stand up for the person who is being verbally
berated? Call the police or otherwise get help if you don’t think you can stop it by yourself?
What are you going to do? Claim Christ or just say…
“I don’t know this man!”