The lesson Peter learned through his denials

by Ian Vail – Berean Insights

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you (pl) like wheat;
but I have prayed for you (sing), that your (sing) faith may not fail; and you (sing), when once you (sing) have turned again, strengthen your (sing) brothers.”
But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!”
And He said, “I say to you (sing), Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you (sing) have denied three times that you (sing) know Me.” (Luke 22:31-34)
pl = plural
sing = singular

So they arrested Him and led Him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance.
The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there.
A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”
But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!” “No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.
About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”
But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me.”
And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)

Let’s summarize the main points we have covered already.

Jesus told Peter beforehand that he would deny Him three times before the rooster crows. Peter vehemently denied that would be the case.
‘I would never do that.’ “Lord, with You, I am ready to go both to prison and to death.”
A very bold statement.

Following which Peter is approached by a servant girl a number of times
then another servant girl
then a man
then a collection of servants and temple guards (the bystanders)
which includes a relative of Malchus, whose ear Peter cut off.

As Peter responds to all of these one after another, his denial escalates, in response to his accusers escalation of certainty, to the point where the relative of Malchus says effectively “that’s definitely him, I’d know him anywhere. You’re the man.
At which point Peter says, “A curse be on me if I’m lying, I don’t know the man.”

That “know” is not the intimate knowledge like that of Adam knowing Eve in the garden.
The verb used here is [eido?] not [ginosko?]. To be aware of, (have) known (-ledge of), look (on). I have no knowledge of this man.
“A curse be on me if I am lying . . . ” Peter, what are you doing? Was Peter lying or not ? Most definitely – LYING.
Peter was willing to call down a curse upon himself rather than go to prison or die.

Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter.
Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know Me.”

This was no passing glance. This was perhaps that most meaningful look that Jesus ever gave Peter. How devastating! Only Luke records these words.
Little wonder. But so sad for the one who claimed he was willing to go to prison or to death. Peter has miserably failed to stand by his Lord and confess Him before men (and women, even slave girls). The full realization of what he has done hits him. When Jesus predicted he would DENY HIM, Peter says there is no way. I will go to prison or die with You. But when push comes to shove he neither is willing to go to prison or die. The timing of everything is staggering, which Luke masterfully records for us. At the very moment Peter says these words the cock crows, the Lord turns and fixes His gaze on Peter, who is stunned by the depth of the truth of his betrayal and how easily it happened with people who didn’t matter. He had not denied Jesus before the Sanhedrin which we would all expect to happen, but had denied Him before slave girls, servants and guards and did it while calling on a curse down on himself. OH MY GOODNESS.

Whereupon Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.

Oh the depth of Peter’s realization of what he has done. He has indeed done exactly as Jesus predicted he would and not only that, but far deeper and lower than Peter ever thought possible he could do. Peter’s bold claims just 28 verses before have all turned to custard. The shock of it causes him great distress to the point where he weeps bitterly, out loud. I am sure it would have now become clear to all those who have claimed he was WITH JESUS, that indeed he had been. Not that THEY doubted it. It is Peter himself who has had a powerful, deep revelation of his own soul. How devastating. He now knows the truth about himself. Peter is broken and contrite, bitterly disappointed in his exposed weakness. He sobs with disappointment in himself and the realization of the depth of his betrayal of the One he loves.

There are a number of you who have said the link to the verses I gave you from John confuse you as to their significance for Peter.
What is it he has learned? I don’t see it Ian. Please explain it to me:

The first question: “Simon son of John, do you love (agape) Me?”
Peter’s answer: “You know I love (phileo) You.”
The second question: “Simon son of John, do you love (agape) Me?”
Peter’s answer: “You know I love (phileo) You.”
The third question: “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) Me?”
Peter’s answer: “Lord, You know everything. You know that I love (phileo) You.”

There are four different Greek words that are translated into our one English word “love”:
1) eros, which describes passionate love. We get the word erotic from this Greek word.
2) storgeo, which is natural love. It was used for family love. Mostly it was used to denote the love between parents and children.
3) phileo, which is brotherly love. To love something or someone because we find qualities which appeal to us and create a warm fondness for them.
4) agape. “ This word describes a feeling of benevolence towards another person; it means that no matter what that person does to us we will never allow ourselves to desire anything but his highest good; and we will deliberately go out of our way to be good and kind to him” (William Barclay). This is a supernatural kind of love. It is unnatural to us in our humanity. It is love to point of laying down our life for the one we love or Jesus laying down His life for His friends.

It is the “agape” kind of love that Peter was claiming in what he said in Luke 22:33. Peter now has learned not to be so rash. Jesus asks Peter, do you agape Me Peter? Do you love me to the point of laying down your life? Peter’s response is a learned response on the basis of his recent experience. Peter responds with phileo, the level of brotherly love. He doesn’t claim anything beyond his capacity. There is now no bold claim to something he cannot deliver. He scales back his claim as to the extent of his love for Jesus. Jesus asks him again, focusing on the nature of the Peter’s love. Peter, do you AGAPE Me? To which Peter replies again, Lord you know I phileo You. Jesus now uses the same word: Peter do you phileo Me? Yes Lord, You know everything. You know that I phileo you.

Oh the depth of this revelation. Peter makes no bold claim of his love, or his willingness to follow. He tells the Lord you know everything. Little wonder. He is mindful of the degree to which Jesus “knew” him in the garden of Gethsemane and knew the nature of his weakness as well. He predicted that Peter would deny Him but He has extended grace to Peter to effectively reinstate him as a follower of His. This has been a huge test for Peter, the end result of which is a realization about himself and the fact that he was prone to making bold claims about his love and devotion and the depth of his faith, which he didn’t then fulfill. Now Peter backs off making such claims. When Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him enough to die for Him, Peter says, I love you with a human level of love. Hint: I don’t think I have reached the level of being willing to die for You.

But just wait for a brief 40 days and Peter is then willing to stand before the Sanhedrin and own His LORD and subject himself to whatever they choose to do him. Through the books of Acts we will see the remarkable transformation of this man Peter. But the depth and detail of that is reserved for when we gem the book of Acts after we have finished Luke.

Yes most definitely the three fold denial is connected to the three occasions Jesus questions the depth and nature of Peter’s love.
Ah now you are getting it Peter. You are realizing the true nature of your devotion and love for your LORD.
Have you had that revelation yet?

Oh there is more to all of this but it is restricted to those who following Deeper Bible at least to level 301. I won’t be disclosing it here.

I will however provide you with a link to another related topic. There have been two translator colleagues who have shared a further theory related to Peter’s denials and just how many times Peter denied Christ. I will let you decide for yourself what you think about it. I don’t hold with the theory myself but I’m not going to spell out the details here. Suffice to share the link with you and let you make up your own mind.

Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to think you can’t fall; never know too much to learn something new.

Your mouth is the microphone of your heart. I think Peter now realizes that.

When God gives an assignment, He deposits the “want to” and the “can do” in the same heart. Max Lucado

Want to see a miracle? Plant a word of love heart-deep in a person’s life. Nurture it w/a smile & prayer & watch what happens. Max Lucado

What is grace? It’s what someone gives out of the goodness of his heart, not out of the perfection of yours. Max Lucado

God uses broken-hearted people because they feel the pain of a fractured world that is separated from God. David Shibley

Now Peter is ready for the ministry to come. So that when he had repented he was ready to strengthen his brothers. Are you?


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