53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
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 Galilean.”
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.
(Mark 14:53-72 NIV)
In our previous texts, Jesus was betrayed by one of His own, Judas Iscariot, then arrested by a mob. Just as Jesus predicted, all His disciples abandoned Him and ran away.
In today’s passage, Jesus is taken by the mob from the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives to the high priest’s house while the Sanhedrin gathered. Mark employs a familiar literary tool – the bookend – to weave together Jesus’ and Peter’s stories on this fateful night. Mark tells us that even though Peter initially fled the arrest scene with the others, he did show up at the high priest’s courtyard where Jesus was being held. It took great courage for Peter to show up (albeit at a distance); let’s give Peter credit for his bravery and love for Jesus.
Many false charges were brought against Jesus; none of the witnesses agreed; all had to be dismissed as evidence. Finally, the high priest asked Jesus if He claimed to be Messiah. When Jesus said yes, the Sanhedrin had all the evidence they needed. Blasphemy was the charge, and death was the sentence, according to the Scriptures.
Everything about this meeting and trial was illegal – meeting at night, during a festival, the way witnesses were handled, asking the defendant self-incriminating questions. The Sanhedrin, the very body that was supposed to ensure justice, fairness, and rule of law suspended all their duties and obligations to God and the Jewish people to uphold justice in order to condemn this man they both feared and hated.
The Jews, under Roman rule, could not carry out the death sentence. They could only act as a grand jury and cite their findings and recommend action by the Roman governor. With their game plan in place, the Sanhedrin then took it upon themselves to humiliate the accused by spitting on Him, blindfolding Him, slapping Him, and telling Him to prophesy who struck Him. This was just as Jesus had predicted.
Peter, meanwhile, was watching all this transpire from the courtyard. One of the slave girls recognized Peter and called him out as one of Jesus’ disciples, which Peter denied. The slave girl followed him to another part of the courtyard and called Peter out again, which he denied again. Finally, Peter’s thick Galilean accent gave him away. Peter vehemently denied any association with Jesus a third time. Peter heard the rooster crow for the second time, remembered Jesus’ words, and left the courtyard, weeping bitterly over what he had just done.
Two men betrayed Jesus that night.
Two men felt deep remorse over what they had done.
One man (Judas Iscariot) tried to fix the mess he had made on his own and died in dishonor and despair.
The other man (Peter), in humility, sought forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus and proclaimed the good news of Jesus that carries on to this day, changing the world one life at a time.
Dear friend, we have all denied Jesus at some point in our lives, either directly with our words, or indirectly, by not speaking up when we had the opportunity. If you are trying to earn your way into heaven by making things right with God, know that this will ultimately end badly, just as it did for Judas.
Jesus invites you to come to Him and accept His free gift of eternal life by relying on Him alone as the only means of reconciliation to God through His death on the cross. He paid the penalty for your and my sins so we don’t have to.
If you have not made this life-changing choice, what’s stopping you? Jesus is waiting for you with open arms, just as He was for Peter.