Scripture: Matthew 26:69–75

Well, the situation encompassed more than just an idle accusation by a “little” servant girl. We must remember that, at this moment, Peter was standing among enemies in the courtyard of the high priest. This was in March or early April, so it was a cold night. Rather than shiver alone, he had to seek warmth around a fire where armed guards were also standing (John 18:18).

Moments before this, Peter had attacked the high priest’s servant and cut off that man’s ear (John 18:10). If these guards identified him as that attacker, how would they respond? They’d most certainly arrest him. Would they also exact “an ear for an ear” justice? There’s no telling, but those guards certainly wouldn’t have treated him kindly.

Meanwhile, Jesus’ trial was going badly. If these enemies surrounding him knew Peter was a follower of Christ, would they make him suffer the same fate as his master? Add to that the emotional upheaval of the betrayal by his close friend, Judas, and the surprise militia that tore them all from the garden at Gethsemane, and you can see why Peter might have been frayed enough to say, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:74).

And, just for the record, Peter wasn’t the only one to turn away from Jesus that terrible night. Matthew 26:56 reports that at the moment of his arrest, “all the disciples deserted him and fled”—including even the gospel writer himself.

Personally, although it breaks my heart to hear Peter’s denial and to witness his sorrow afterward, I agree with the late, great theologian Paul Tillich who said that “If the disciples had suppressed the truth about their own profound weakness, our gospels would not be what they are.” The church at times, Tillich continues, “has tried to conceal what the disciples openly admitted—that we all forsook him and fled. But this is the truth about all men, including followers of Jesus today.”


WWC 263; TEN 102–103

“Why was Peter so afraid of a little servant girl that he would deny even knowing Jesus?” is reprinted from Bible-Smart: Matthew © 2023 Nappaland Communications Inc. Published Tyndale House Publishers/Rose Publishing. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.

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