The following sermon was prepared by Ps Lucas Stoltz. Click here: Mark 14:66-72, to download or stream the audio sermon. Alternatively, you can read the notes below, or follow along as you watch or listen.

Mark 14:66-72, Peter’s Denial; A Matter on Self-Assurance

  • If you remember back to our previous section, Jesus was being tried by the Jewish council. Now while this takes place, Peter cuts ties with Christ by denying to ever being with Him. And to make matters worse, the confrontation was initiated by a young servant girl.
  • But what is the purpose of Peter’s denial being recorded in the middle of the two trials? We saw previously the probable reason is that Mark is contrasting the bold, calm, and confident witness of Jesus with the unpredictable and ultimately failed witness of Peter. However, Mark did not include this in order to be critical of Peter. He writes to glorify Jesus and to prepare the Christian to testify of Him before a hostile world.
  • This is fitting as Mark is writing to the church in Rome, where the church was experiencing severe hostility from the political powers. The church was feeling the heat of witnessing to the truth of Christ and His gospel in a hostile environment.
  • So Mark includes this as he wanted the church like Jesus, to be dependent on God rather than, like Peter, to be self-dependent. And this is fitting for us to study as we find our faith tested by the fire at various times. And so there is a need to be aware of our weaknesses, and we need to be aware of the moment by moment dependence on Christ.
  • So what we’ll do tonight as we prepare for Easter, is look at the lesson in the danger of self-confidence. So firstly,

1. The Warning of Self-Assurance:

  • Text – v66-68
  • Explanation – This account can prepare us for faithful discipleship in a hostile world, but we need to be aware of the temptation to lean on our own understanding. We need to be aware that every situation we found ourselves in, we are either confess our trust in Jesus or we are in some way deny it.
  • The public, our families, our co-workers, and our neighbours identify us as having been with Jesus. Many know we go to church. Some have even heard our testimonies. But the moment the fire tries us, they are asking, do you really know and trust Him?
  • Illustration – Now, Scripture does not tell us what Peter’s motives were for entering the high priest’s courtyard. Perhaps he thought he could still rescue Jesus. But we learn from his encounter that he foolishly put himself into temptation.
  • He had already deserted and fled, so he knew his own weakness and vulnerability. But he tried to hide his identity, and this leads him to deny his master. That’s what happens when we struggle with failure or guilt or when we find ourselves surrounded by those hostile to Christ.
  • Application – Mark’s point is that we must recognize our vulnerability and resist the temptation to compromise our faith. Now if looks could kill, hers would have. Look at verse 67-68 again. Notice that here it says seeing Peter, but then it adds she looked at him, this later signifying an attentive gaze giving special attention to Peter’s facial features. 
  • But she noticed more than just Peter. She knew that Peter was with the Lord. But the servant-girl was “spot on” and had just given Peter his first challenge to admit he had been with Jesus. 
  • Conclusion – Peter was challenged to tell the truth, but he lied. Matthew 26:70 adds that Peter “denied it before them all.” The word to deny is the exact opposite of to confess. Scripture teaches we are to confess Christ and to deny self. Peter does just the opposite, denying Christ in order to preserve self! 
  • That’s the danger of self-assurance. He thought that the faith he has enabled him, however, it proved to be wrong. It isn’t like Peter is being interrogated by a hostile man of authority, like Jesus was. Peter did not face this kind of interrogation, only one of the servant girls came up to him.
  • Bridge – But she was enough to make Peter deny Jesus. But instead of making a bold confession, he played the coward. Peter blatantly rejects any knowledge of Jesus. So the warning is, don’t trust yourself. Look to Christ.

2. The Conditions of Self-Assurance:

  • Text – 69-72
  • Explanation – Although Mark only records two of the three denials, they are enough for him to make his point. So it happens again, she spots him, and they also notice that he was a Galilean. Did he have a nametag? No. Matthew 26:73 says, “Your speech betrays you.” He had a Galilean accent. They picked up his accent.
  • So in verse 71, he began to curse and swear. “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Curse and swear? Continuous cursing coming out of his mouth.
  • Illustration – Here’s what starts to happen when you lean on self-assurance. The fact that Peter lied, invoked a curse on himself. He’s lying, he knows he’s lying, but he pronounces curses upon himself if he’s lying.
  • How do we know that this was the reality? Verse 72, “Immediately, a rooster crowed a second time.” The Lord didn’t make it happen, the Lord knew it would happen, and it happened because Peter wasn’t ready, he wasn’t prepared. That’s the thing about self-assurance, it is as if one suddenly has brash overconfidence, foolish confidence that will lead to failing cowardice.
  • Application – But at the same time, something else happens. Something that we assume would bring repentance, but it didn’t. Luke’s Gospel also records Peter’s denial, but he adds; Luke 22:61, The rooster crowed a second time, and the “Lord turned and looked at Peter.”
  • Perhaps Christ’s trial had just ended and He was coming back across the courtyard, headed to prison, where He’d be kept for a few hours until the fake trial, scourging, and the crucifixion in the morning.
  • His face covered with spit, black and blue, puffy from being punched and slapped in the face. His clothes covered with sweaty blood that had oozed out of His sweat glands in the agonies in the garden. He looks right into the eyes of Peter. That’s a look that Peter never, ever, ever forgot.
  • That’s a gaze that sees us in our sin, that saw Peter in his. Perhaps the sin of self-assurance. What leads to such self-assurance? MacArthur identified a few things that I agree with.
  • Conclusion – Firstly, self-assurance comes from a boastful attitude. Peter thought he was strong, that he was the man. He even boasted in following Christ. But it become about himself. He boasted too much, he had too much confidence in his strength.
  • Secondly, he listened too little. Jesus warned him about this happening, but he rejected all those warnings. He did not take the word of the Lord seriously. And thirdly, he prayed too little. He slept through the prayer meeting. Jesus said, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.
  • He even taught them, “Pray this way, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” He should have been awake and praying instead of sleeping.
  • Fourthly, he acted too fast or impulsively. He reacted on his own without considering the Lord’s will. He was out of sync with the plan of God, and the purpose of God. He was driven by his own fleshly impulses. And he wanted to affirm his self-confidence.
  • So why is he there? What is he doing in the courtyard? Well, he is curious, not courageous. He reached the top, called by Christ, commissioned by Christ, set apart by Christ, loved by Christ, taught by Christ, and here he denies the very Lord he confessed.
  • Bridge – But he is not Judas, who from the start was a devil. This is a believer, his faith will not fail. His confession failed, his courage failed, his faith did not fail because it says Peter remembered, verse 72, how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times, and he began to weep.
  • He went somewhere to be alone to remember the words of the Lord and his foolish self-confidence. And he began to weep. And Matthew and Luke both say he wept bitterly. He had discovered the corruption of his own flesh even in the face of his best intentions.
  • Application:
  • He believed in himself – that’s the problem. Thankfully the story doesn’t end here. The end of the story is in John 21 – just briefly. After the resurrection, Jesus meets the disciples in Galilee and they have breakfast.
  • Jesus said to Peter, “‘Simon Peter, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’” “Do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “He said, ‘Tend my lambs.” He said to him the third time, “‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to Him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to Him, ‘Lord, you know all things. You know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’
  • He gave him an opportunity to confess his love for every time he’d denied Christ, three for three. That’s the restoration of Peter. Was he able to be restored? Definitely!
  • How do we know? He sat down and wrote 1 Peter 1, and he wrote about how trials that are fiery trials (1 Peter 1:6-9) prove your faith. So this is what we learn from our brother. When you go through the worst collapse of your spiritual life, your faith doesn’t fail.
  • Because it is not faith built on self-assurance, it is built on Christ assurance. There’s no point in being overconfident but to understand the weakness of our flesh and the faithfulness of Christ.