Please note that the recorder missed approximately the first eight minutes. Jesus and his disciples had left the temple mount, crossed the Kidron Valley, and came to the Mount of Olives. Jesus was praying in anguish because he knew the horror of the cross lies ahead of him. Now his time has come. Judas, one of his close companions, has led an intimidating crowd to arrest Jesus. The crowd seizes Jesus and all of the disciples left Jesus and ran away. Jesus is alone as the crowd takes Jesus away to the high priest.
What we see is a gathering of the opponents of Jesus. The chief priests, elders, and the scribes all gather together with the high priest for trial of Jesus. But before we examine the trial, we are told that Peter has returned to the proximity of Jesus. After everyone runs away when Jesus is arrested, once the coast was clear, we see Peter following Jesus at a distance until he comes to the high priest’s courtyard. So he sits among the guard, warming himself by the fire.
Now we are told the plans of these religious leaders. The chief priests and the Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. Now think about what this just said. They do not have any evidence to put Jesus to death. They have convened this trial because they are looking for any reason to put Jesus to death. But notice verse 55 reveals that they cannot find any evidence to put Jesus to death. This is a carefully orchestrated plan. They gather people to make false testimony against Jesus, but even these false charges did not agree with each other. Remember that bearing false witness is a direct violation of God’s law. It is one of the Ten Commandments. But rather than release Jesus, the leaders continue to look for a way to have Jesus executed. So some stand up and give this false testimony.
“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.’” (Mark 14:58 ESV)
Notice that this is false testimony and the false testimony given about this did not agree either (14:59). The charge is that Jesus personally threatened the temple. The charge is not merely that Jesus predicted the demise of the temple, which we know Jesus did do (see Mark 13). Remember that the temple was the dwelling place of God. So this is considered blaspheming against God’s house to say that it is a sanctuary made with hands, rather than the dwelling place of God. But, as the text notes for us, this is not what Jesus said. None of the false witnesses’ testimonies agree. So the high priest tries to get Jesus to say something incriminating. The high priest challenges Jesus to give an answer to the lies that were being offered. But Jesus remains silent, just as Isaiah 53:7 prophesied.
Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 ESV)
Jesus refuses to answer the false charges. So the high priest takes matters into his own hands because they are going to do anything they can to get something on Jesus so that they can have him killed. The high priest asked, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” The high priest cuts to the chase. Are you the Messiah, the Son of God? Jesus will not deny himself but accepts the title. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the Son of God. But then Jesus says more. “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Jesus directly proclaims judgment against the leaders and the nation of Israel. Jesus will be vindicated by God at his right hand and come in judgment against the high priest and the nation. Jesus declares himself to the Messiah and God himself. This is what ends the trial. The high priest has what he wants. The high priest declares Jesus as blaspheming and worthy of death.
Now the attack on Jesus begins. Some begin to spit on him. They cover his eyes and punch him, asking him to prophesy who punched him and what will happen. Jesus said this was going to happen in Mark 10:34. Isaiah 50:6 also prophesied that the servant of God would suffer in this way. They mock him and the guards take Jesus and beat him.
While this is happening to Jesus, our attention returns to the courtyard where we left Peter warming himself by the fire among the guards. A servant girl of the high priest passes by and, after looking closely at Peter, identifies him as a companion of Jesus. But Peter denies it (14:68). Listen to what he says. “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” In our words, Peter says that he has no idea what this servant girl is talking about. With this, Peter gets up and move to the entryway of the courtyard and the rooster crowed. But the servant girl starts telling the people standing around that Peter is one of the companions of Jesus. He is one of them. Peter denies it again. I am not a companion or follower of Jesus.
But then one of those standing there says directly to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” Now do not reading Peter cursing as profanity. He is either pronouncing a curse on himself if he is lying about knowing Jesus, as the ESV indicates, or a curse upon the people there for not believing what he is saying, as the NIV indicates. In either case, this is a powerful, vehement denial of knowing Jesus. Peter takes an oath saying, “I do not know this many you are talking about.” As soon as Peter said it, the rooster crowed again. Then Peter remembered what Jesus said about denying Jesus three times. Peter had declared that he would never deny Jesus. But now he has done it. So Peter completely breaks down weeping.
It is a historical account that cuts to the heart. Peter feared the hostility that he would receive if he admitted his relationship with Jesus. It was more important to Peter to save himself rather than confess Jesus. What must be striking about what Peter did is that he denied Jesus so that he could preserve his life! Please remember what Jesus taught to his disciples earlier.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. (Mark 8:35–38 ESV)
Just think about this monumental failure and the reality of why it is such a failure. We must hold Jesus as more precious to us than even life itself. We must love Jesus more than we love the opinions and honor of others. Listen to it: whoever desires to save his life is going to lose it. Whoever is ashamed of Jesus, Jesus will be ashamed of that person in the coming judgment.
Denial is simply concealing who we are. This is what Peter is doing. He is hiding who he is. He is not going to proclaim that he is a follower of Jesus. He is not going to admit that he is here because he loves Jesus. The reason why is because it is not to his personal advantage. This is the shift that is happening in our society. People were very happy to claim to be a follower of Jesus because there was a personal advantage. Think about how politicians would run for office and they had to claim to be a Christian or they had no chance of success. They may not have been a Christian at all but confessing Jesus was good. The same was true at work. Then the shift happened in the last couple decades where it was not popular to be a Christian but it was still good. You were considered trustworthy, ethical, a hardworker, and more so it is still social acceptable to claim Jesus. Now what happens if you claim Jesus in your life? Are you looked on positively? Not too often and because of this people no longer claim to be Christians. Politicians do not. People of influence do not. Now here we are and what are we going to do when it is no longer socially advantageous for us to claim Jesus? Do we hide Jesus from work? Do we hide Jesus from our community? Do we hide Jesus from our circles of influence?
The question that we have to ask ourselves is: are we knowing and claiming Jesus no matter what or only when it is acceptable to do so? Do our co-workers know that we are Christians? Do our neighbors know what we are Christians? Does our family know that we are Christians? Do our friends know that we are Christians? Are we hiding Jesus for fear of the repercussions that could come from such a claim? Or do we only claim Jesus when it is socially advantageous for us?
There is no such thing as a hidden disciple. We cannot be hidden disciples. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). We cannot be hidden disciples. A disciple shines as light or that person is not a disciple. Who do we want to know about Jesus? Who do we not want to know about Jesus? We need to see that what Peter did here was a massive failure. We need to see what it is a massive failure on our part when we do not shine our light and claim Jesus to be that light. It is the very purpose that God has given to each one of us here. Claim Jesus and shine as light.
God help us to stop being afraid of our society. God give us a heart of repentance for how many times we have hidden our relationship to Jesus from others. We cannot claim Jesus only when it is convenient, socially acceptable, or socially advantageous to us. Let me connect the above passage from Mark to help us see what this gospel is doing. Look at Mark 8:34. Before Jesus says anything about being ashamed of him or saving your own life, listen to how he started that teaching in Mark 8:34.
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34 ESV)
This is part of what carrying the cross looks like. We will not deny Jesus. We will claim the relationship and proclaim the relationship. Think about all the things we promote on our social media pages. We will promote food, family, pets, politics, social causes, and the like. But are we will to promote Jesus? Will we show people who we love and what matters most to us? Or are we afraid of the potential consequences? No one can be a hidden disciple. Let your light shine so that others may see and glorify God.