Peter’s Denial – The Six Steps Down

The account of Peter’s denial of the Lord and the spiritual downfall leading to his ultimate rejection of the Lord Jesus are well recorded in the four Gospels. Mark, however, has more detail in describing Peter’s spiritual loss of wellbeing compared with the other writers. John Mark having himself experienced a downward path, a time of spiritual obscurity, would well appreciate the retrograde steps that Peter took (see Acts 15. 37, 38). The verses in Mark chapter 14 are a warning to each believer since we too can so easily follow the same pathway. In complete sincerity Peter had assured the Lord that he would not deny Him. Verse 29, records, ‘But Peter said unto him, although all shall be offended, yet will not I’, and verse 31, ‘But he spoke the more vehemently, if I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise’. Let us prudently consider these six steps of spiritual decline that Peter took.


The Lord said unto Peter, ‘Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?’, Mark 14. 37. Peter was not vigilant. Watchfulness and awareness are always necessary. We must be on our guard. Whenever we become tired we are more vulnerable to the desires of the flesh and the fiery darts of the wicked. These thoughts may have been in Peter’s mind; when he later wrote, ’ gird up the loins of your mind, be sober’, 1 Pet. 1. 13; and, ‘Be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer’, 1 Pet. 4. 7; and, ‘Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour’, 1 Pet. 5. 8.


‘And they all forsook him and fled’, Mark 14. 50. The disciples, including Peter, moved away from the Lord’s presence at the sight of the great multitude who came to take the Lord away. They did not want to be associated with Him in His rejection. The fact of not being willing to bear His reproach is another stage in the loss of spiritual wellbeing. Peter could reflect upon this experience and could later write, ‘But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled’, 1 Pet. 3. 14; and also ‘If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye’, 1 Pet. 4. 14.


‘And Peter followed him afar off’, 14. 54. Peter was still a follower of the Lord, but he was afar off. The greater the distance that we are from His presence the greater is our loss. The sight of the Lord from a distance means that we do not have a clear picture, our spiritual vision becomes dim. The joy of Christian living and the blessed hope that we have recede from our uppermost thoughts. Peter could later write, ‘But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off’, 2 Pet. 1. 9. ;


‘And he sat with the servants’, 14. 54. Peter sat down with the servants of the High Priest. The religious leaders had already poured out their scorn upon the Lord. He was now sitting in the seat of the scornful. Peter could never be happy in the position in which he had now placed himself. Contrast this with the blessed (i.e. happy) man of Psalm 1. 1 who sits not zin the seat of the scornful’. Peter could well appreciate the situation of Lot in Sodom, ‘vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked’, 2 Pet. 2. 7.


‘And warmed himself at the fire’, 14. 54. Having distanced himself from the Lord, and now pandering to the desires of the flesh rather than seeking the presence of the Lord, did nothing to further the disciple’s progress for testimony. Sitting amongst the ungodly, warming himself at the world’s fire would make it even more difficult for him to speak out for the Lord. Peter wrote meaningfully some time later, ‘Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul’, 1 Pet. 2. 11.


‘And as Peter was beneath in the palace’, 14. 66. Peter was down positionally and was now well down spiritually. He was in no position to witness for the Lord. There was certainty in the mind of the maid and those that sat with Peter by the fire, because his Galilean accent would be quite distinct in their presence. It seemed as if it would have been easier for Peter to have replied positively to their questions, ‘Surely thou art one of them?’, 14. 70. The evidence was so overwhelming against him. John, who had his eyes set upon the person of Christ, was able to morally outrun his fellow disciple in testimony. The maid knew that John was a disciple and said to Peter ‘Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples?’, John 18. 17.

If we are not watchful, and distance ourselves from the presence of the Lord, putting ourselves rather in the presence of the ungodly, our stand for the Lord is considerably weakened and we will not be enabled to speak up for the Lord. Peter was so low spiritually that he denied the Lord with cursing and swearing, 14. 71, and regretted this mournfully, v. 72, and ‘went out and wept bitterly’, Luke 22. 62. This dreadful experience never left Peter and he urged his readers, ‘Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear’, 1 Pet. 3. 15. Peter was restored to the Lord privately, Luke 24. 34; 1 Cor. 15. 5 and publicly, John 21. 15-19. There is always a way back to the One who cares for His own. Let us take to heart Peter’s words, ‘Be sober, be vigilant’, 1 Pet. 5. 8, lest we too suffer a loss of spiritual wellbeing.

Keep me … hide me … cover me

No one, O Lord, has more need continually to keep close to Thee in prayer and faith, and at the same time no one is more unable to do it than I, the least of all Thy flock. O that Thou wouldest be graciously pleased to incline and enable me to pursue this blessed work; and grant that Thy good Spirit, according to His own pleasure, may never suffer me to be faint and backward in the same. While I truly rest my faith under the wings of Thy grace, I am sure of defence, power, and comfort; but, as soon as I wander from Thee, I am in danger of losing the comfortable sense of these privileges, and falling into various errors and perplexities. Guide me, O Lord, by Thy counsel, in this world, and at last receive me into glory.


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