Luke 22:54–71 . . . Bible Study Summary with Photos
Jesus: Disowned, Mocked, Questioned
We learned in last week's study (vv. 39–53) that Peter boasted in the flesh that he'd follow Jesus to his death if necessary. In his spirit he meant it, but in the first trial after saying it — at Jesus' arrest when Peter used his sword — our Lord had to point out that his flesh was weak. Peter is a focal point also in today's passage, this time his mouth is his sword. The story of his verbal denials is recorded in Scripture to underscore two significant facts: (1) the weakness and sinfulness of even the most prominent saints, and (2) the greatness and abundance of God's love and grace toward those who fail. For those of us who "walk with the Lord," this story warns us to take heed, lest we fall. For those of us who've fallen, the story holds out the hope of pardon through God's abundant grace, so long as we return to him. Remember this: Even when you fail the Lord badly, you'll be pardoned so long as you repent. God will restore you and use you again in his service.
Peter Followed at a Distance (vv. 54b–55)
In v. 54b (see below), Luke uses the Greek word akoloutheo for the word "followed," meaning "to follow as a disciple," suggesting that Peter continued to follow at a distance as Jesus was marched to the high priest's house. Peter put himself in danger because he'd been a disciple who'd been following Jesus for three years, and he wasn't stopping now.
The pronouns "they" and "them" in v. 55 probably refer to the temple soldiers who've just arrested Jesus. Presumably, the elders and chief priest's officers have gone inside where the interrogation was going on. Outside, in the high priest's courtyard, surrounded by temple soldiers, Peter sat rather courageously. If he were recognized as a disciple — particularly the one who'd drawn blood resisting them in the garden — he'd likely be arrested. Sitting near the fire, he began to wonder what might happen. As long shadows danced in the firelight, his fears grew: What if I'm recognized? How can I hide when it becomes bright? What should I do if I'm identified by someone who was there?
Three Denials (vv. 56–62)
Peter's courage and bravado turned to fear. Let's look briefly at Luke's account of the denials.
First Denial A girl (v. 56) was looking curiously at Peter, and he felt her stare. She accused Peter by saying, "This man was with him." He immediately blurted out his first denial when he said, "I don't know him."
Second Denial As time elapsed, it seemed to Peter as though that long night would never end. Then a man accused Peter of being "one of" them. This translates the Greek preposition ek, in the sense of "belonging to someone or something." Again Peter's denial was resolute: "Man, I am not!"
Third Denial An hour later, when the morning's horizon began to brighten, another man "asserted" similarly. "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." The verb used in the man's accusation for "asserted" (NIV) or "confidently" (KJV) is the Greek verb diischurizomai, "to be emphatic or resolute about something; to insist, maintain firmly."
In just a few hours, the courageous spokesman who'd promised Jesus that he'd go to prison and death with him (22:33) was reduced to denying any relationship with the Man he'd followed for three years. While in the vicinity of the Master, Peter followed "at a distance" and became compromised. He was unfaithful to his closest friend.
With every reading of this three-denial passage, all of us can hear the rooster that crowed that morning. While Peter was still mouthing his adamant denial, the rooster began to crow to herald the advent of morning. Jesus, who was then visible, turned and made eye contact with Peter who was struck realizing that Jesus knew exactly what he'd done, having predicted this very lapse. Overwhelming grief filled Peter's heart.
Luke's account of Peter's denial gives us no explanation for Peter's presence in the courtyard of the high priest's house. Neither does he give us the reason why Peter denied his Lord, when confronted with the fact that he was one of his disciples. Luke simply gives us a straightforward account of Peter's three denials. Jesus was under arrest and was being interrogated, even abused. At that point, things were apparently out of his hands. But they weren't! After Peter had denied his Lord three times, Jesus was able to "give Peter the eye," right at the time the cock crowed. Jesus was able to communicate to Peter that those things that he'd foretold earlier in the evening had taken place. Jesus' prophecy would be fulfilled precisely at the time and in the exact manner that Jesus said they'd be. Once again, we see that Jesus Christ is in control, even when life seems to be unraveling at the seams, at least for Peter.
Jesus: Mocked and Abused (vv. 63–65)
You might wonder why this next abusive account is so brief. Perhaps it's because Luke is again informing us that it's Jesus who's "in control." After all, law-enforcement officials are trained to keep their emotions under control. The ideal police officer remains calm in the execution of his or her duties, not to be goaded by the prisoner or the crowd. But these men have utterly lost control of themselves. They're not abusing Jesus as though he were a hardened criminal who deserves to suffer; they're mocking Jesus as a prophet, wanting him to present a magical display of his powers. In the process, they're fulfilling Jesus' own words that a prophet is persecuted, not praised, for his work. Thus, he's here identified with the prophets who've gone before him to Jerusalem to be rejected and to die.
Jesus: Condemned by the Sanhedrin (vv. 66–71)
The Jerusalem Sanhedrin (Greek sunedrion) had authority, theoretically at least, over the spiritual, political, and legal affairs of all Jews, though at times only in Judea. It was presided over by the high priest, and was made up of seventy-one persons consisting of three groups: chief priests, scribes, and elders. Technically it was illegal for the Sanhedrin to convict a person of a capital crime during a night session; Jesus' interrogation at the high priest's palace during the night served as a preliminary meeting that allowed members to get an idea of the charges, and to hear (false) testimony against Jesus. A verdict to convict had to wait until the following morning, as Luke clarifies that the official verdict was rendered after dawn.
Up until this time, Jesus had avoided publicly declaring that he was the Messiah (Greek christos), though his disciples knew (9:20–21), and occasionally he privately revealed this to followers, such as the Woman at the Well of Sychar (John 4:25–26). Popular speculation in Jerusalem had been rampant that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Messiah (John 9:22). But Jesus' enemies had him in a position to demand a clear answer (vv. 67–68).
The Sanhedrin had come to its wits end. They had to resort to another illegal ploy to somehow trick Jesus into bearing witness against himself. While the law of that day had its own "fifth amendment," which prevented accusers from forcing a man to testify against himself, could they somehow get him to acknowledge that he was Messiah, even better, that he was the Son of God? If so, then they could find him guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death.
Jesus answered their question, not because they'd had the right to ask it but because his time had come. Yes, he affirmed, he was the Messiah. Imagine the Sanhedrin hushed in silence. Had Jesus referred to himself as the "Son of Man"? That expression, found in Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 7:13–14), implied humanity and deity. Could they now press Jesus just a bit further, to admit that he was the Son of God? If so, they had him. The room must have become absolutely quiet. They all asked with anticipation, You are the Son of God, right?
Jesus' response, "You say that I am," wasn't necessarily evasive or indirect, as it might appear. Jesus spoke directly, in the idiom of that day. It was a firm "yes," precisely what they'd been looking for. No matter that their trials were a sham, no matter that this man's rights had been violated, no matter that witnesses couldn't agree on the charges against him, no matter that the accused had been beaten beforehand and that his testimony had been drawn from him, they had the evidence they needed. Now, all they needed was the cooperation of the state to kill him.
It Makes You Wonder . . . .
- Q. 1 Have we truly repented if we don't feel sorry about our sins?
- Q. 2 Why do you think the temple soldiers abused Jesus as they did?
- Q. 3 What does Daniel 7:13–14 tell you about Jesus' preferred title: Son of Man?
This Week's Passage
Peter Disowns Jesus
54Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him."
57But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said.
58A little later someone else saw him and said, "You also are one of them."
"Man, I am not!" Peter replied.
59About an hour later another asserted, "Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean."
60Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." 62And he went outside and wept bitterly.
The Guards Mock Jesus
63The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" 65And they said many other insulting things to him.
Jesus Before Pilate and Herod
66At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67"If you are the Messiah," they said, "tell us."
Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God."
70They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?"
He replied, "You say that I am."
71Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."