In Mark 14:72, Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times. Why did Peter deny Him before the rooster crowed the second time? I kept reading it, but couldn't understand the scriptures. Is it because Jesus did not want Peter to be crucified like him?
All four gospels record Peter’s three denials of Jesus Christ. They can be found in Matt. 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; and John 18:15-27. The Mark passage you refer to reads as follows:
As Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Nazarene.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.” And he went out onto the porch, and a rooster crowed. The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders, “This is one of them!” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders were again saying to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And he began to weep. (NASB) Mark 14:66-72
Before we explain this passage we need to back up and discover what happened before Peter denied Jesus three times.
First, it is important to remember that all four gospels tell us that Jesus had been arrested in the evening after He and His disciples had their last supper or meal together (Mark 14:12-52). The Jewish leaders had him arrested and brought before them (Mark 14:10-12, 43-44; Matt. 27:1-10). Jesus ended up standing before the Jewish Sanhedrin for questioning (Mark 14:53-65). The Sanhedrin was a group of religious leaders who governed the nation of Israel, and they hated Jesus (Mark 14:1). At the time Jesus walked on the earth, the Jews were under the control of Rome. At the end of the questioning, Jesus was beaten and insulted. How do you think Peter felt as he watched all of these initial events from the courtyard (Mark 14:66)? Most likely he was afraid that Jesus would die, and he was probably also afraid for himself, since we are told that all of the disciples had fled when Jesus was arrested.
And they all left Him and fled. (NASB) Mark 14:50
We can understand why Peter would be fearful. At least Peter and one other disciple (John 18:16) were bold enough to be nearby to see what would happen to Jesus. The four gospels tell us that there was a crowd in the courtyard with Peter. They were standing around the fires warming themselves, and one-by-one people started recognizing Peter and asking him if he knew Jesus. How would you have responded if you were afraid and people kept asking you about your relationship with Jesus? Each gospel records a slightly different view of what happened to Peter. This is understandable since each saw different things. If we look carefully at the gospel records of Peter’s three denials, we discover that Peter was not a weak man who denied Jesus just because someone asked him three simple questions. Each denial appears to have been preceded by a series of challenging questions that finally erupted into statements that denied any knowledge of Jesus. If we weave the events from Matt. 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; and John 18:15-27 together, we will have a better picture of what happened to Jesus. The reference numbers shown below as (1), (2), (3), and (4) refer to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, respectively. All scripture quotes are from the NASB.
After Jesus was arrested, Peter and another disciple followed Jesus at a distance (3) but when Jesus was taken into the courtyard (4), Peter remained outside, at first. Apparently, Peter stood and sat outside for while before the other disciple was able to bring him inside the courtyard (4). A fire had been kindled in the middle of the courtyard (3), and when Peter entered the courtyard, he went over and sat down among them to warm himself (3). From there he watched to see the outcome of the trial against Jesus. After awhile one of the servant girls approached Peter and asked, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not” (4). So she responded, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about” (1, 2). Then she said to those standing around, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him” (3).
Then Peter left the group by the fire and walked toward the gateway (1). The servant-girl followed him and said to some bystanders, ” “This is one of them!” (2) But he denied it. A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” (3) Another servant-girl saw him and said, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.”
After about an hour had passed (3), and one of the slaves of the high priest, being a relative of the one whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied it and another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” (3) The bystanders responded with, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” (2) “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away.” But he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” And immediately a rooster crowed.
Summary of the Denials
Peter was confronted on three different occasions by groups of people. Mark 14:69 makes this clear when it says that the servant girl began to speak to the people standing around.
The servant-girl saw him, and began once more to say to the bystanders . . . (NASB) Mark 14:69
The first denial came when he finally said, “I do not know Him.” The second denial occurred when he said, “I do not know Him” one more time. Each denial was personal. “I do not know Him!” The third denial came when he began cursing and swore, “I do not know this man you are talking about!” Then the rooster crowed a second time.
Why did Peter deny Jesus? He was afraid and did not want to die because of His relationship with Jesus. He was unwilling to die for what he believed. Few today are willing to die for what they believe in. Many of us would have done the same thing that Peter did. Yet, God calls us to be willing to suffer and if necessary, to die for Him.
Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NASB) Matt. 5:11-12
May we be willing to die for Him. May we be willing to suffer for Him. If we are, then may we be willing to tell others that Jesus came and died for them!