18. Excursus, Peter's Denial
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Lesson #18 Excursus: Peters Denial
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Lesson #17 oered an excursus on Judas, a problema7c character in Scripture, viewed by some as a sinister villain; by others as a pe@y thief who betrays the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver; and by yet others as the most loyal disciple who believes he is helping Jesus, one who is perhaps even following Jesus instruc7ons.
A disciple from the start, Judas was with Jesus for his en7re 3-year public ministry: Judas witnessed Jesus teaching, preaching and healing; Judas was present at Peters confession of faith; and Judas rmly believed that Jesus was the Messiah.
So why does Judas betray Jesus?
In Lesson #17 we explored the character of Judas, hearing tes7mony from all four evangelists: Ma@hew, Mark, Luke and John, and drawing a few conclusions about this enigma7c character.
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At Caesarea Philippi Peter said to Jesus with great certainty, you are the Messiah of God (9: 20); across the three years of Jesus public ministry, Peter emerged as leader of the disciples; and aVer the Last Supper Peter pledged with convic7on: Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you (22: 33).
And yet, Peter denies the Lord, not once, but three 7mes.
Lesson #18 oers another excursus in which we explore Peters possible mo7ves and ac7ons, placing Peters denial in the context of his 3-year rela7onship with Jesus and the other Apostles.
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To understand St. Peters denial of Jesus, we need to step back and learn how Peter met Jesus; how their rela7onship developed; Peters posi7on among the Twelve; and the the immediate context of the denial itselfas well as Peters psychological and spiritual condi7on aEer his denial.
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That makes sense. St. Peters denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest had enormous consequences for him, but I can see how we have to understand what led up to it, and
what triggered it, if were to understand it.
Ive always felt REALLY bad for
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The story begins on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, A.D. 28 or 29, when Jesus meets Peter for the rst 7me.
John 1: 19 2: 12 opens our story.
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Paolo Veronese. The Wedding at Cana (oil on oak), 1562. Louvre Museum, Paris.
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So, Jesus was introduced to Peter by Peters brother,
Andrew, who was in Jerusalem for Pentecost with Peter,
James and John, his partners in a commercial shing
business on the Sea of Galilee.
And it sounds like they had a pre@y
good 7me together, too!
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And whats more, James and John, who live in Bethsaida, are Jesus cousins: Zebedee is their father, and their mother is Salome, Marys hJ ajdelfh, sister or sister-in-law (John 19: 25).
Jesus spends quite a bit of 7me with Peter, Andrew, James and John, as well as with their families. When Jesus relocates to Capernaum to begin his public ministry, he moves in with Peter and his family and lives with them.
Look closely at Luke 4: 38-44.
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Healing Peters Mother-in-Law (fresco), c. 1495. Church of Agios Mammas, Louvaras, Cypress.
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So, when Jesus nally calls Peter to be a full-7me disciple, Jesus and Peter already know each other quite well: theyve been close for over a year, and Jesus lives at Peters home.
Now read Luke 5: 1-11 to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus calling
his rst disciples.
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Duccio. Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew (tempera on wood), c. 1308-1311. Na7onal Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
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AVer traveling with Jesus for 2 years or more as he teaches, preaches and heals throughout Galilee, Jesus and Peter grow even closer.
Toward the end of his public ministry, when Jesus takes his disciples north to Caesarea Philippi, Peter clearly emerges as the groups leader.
Read Ma@hew 16: 13-20.
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Rembrandt. St. Peter as Pope (oil on panel), c. 1610-1612. Prado Museum, Madrid.
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At the Last Supper Jesus tells Peter that he will deny him, not once, but three 7mes.
Read Ma@hew 26: 31-35.
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Giovanni Pietro Rizzoli, The Last Supper, aEer Leonardo da Vinci (oil on canvas), c. 1520. The Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Bartholomew James son of Alphaeus Andrew
Judas Peter John
Thomas James Philip
Ma@hew Jude Simon the Zealot Jesus
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When Jesus and the disciples end the Passover meal and leave for the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter is true to his vow. When the temple guards arrive, led by Judas, and they arrest Jesus: courageously, Peter draws his sword and wades into the guards, looking to take o a head!
He is prepared to die.
Read Ma@hew 26: 36-56.
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Gerard Douet. Taking Christ with the Malchus Episode (oil on canvas), c. 1620. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
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But once they take Jesus to the high priests home and Peter is locked in the courtyard with the guards, his courage waivers . . . and then it collapses altogether.
Read Ma@hew 26: 69-75.
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Caravaggio. The Denial of St. Peter (oil on canvas), c. 1610. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
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That scene breaks my heart!
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Peters heart is broken, too. He is never the same. When Jesus appears to his disciples in the locked upper room, Peter is therebut he says nothing.
When Jesus appears again in the upper room with Thomas is present, Peter is therebut again, he says nothing.
Although we will see Peter on mul7ple occasions in the post-resurrec7on scenes, he will never u@er a single word.
He is devastated. And Jesus knows it. 22 Excursus, Peter's Denial
We commonly assume that aVer Jesus resurrec7on he appeared rst to Mary Magdalene, and then to Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus, and nally to his disciples in the upper room.
But, no! St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5 (and it is armed in Luke 24: 33-34)
For I handed on to you as of rst importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. AEer that, he appeared to more than ve hundred brothers at once, most of whom are sUll living . . ..
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I wonder what Jesus said to
I bet he forgave him.
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But Jesus forgiving Peter was never the problem; the problem was Peter forgiving Peter.
And that doesnt happen un7l John 21.
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Raphael. Christs Charge to Peter (color on paper on canvas), 1515. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
[Pope Leo X commissioned this tapestry from Raphael; it is in the VaUcan Museums. This is the paper design for the tapestry in the Victoria and Albert Museum.]
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1. Jesus: Do you love me more than these? aJgapa me
Peter: You know you are my friend. oida filw: se
2. Jesus: Do you love me? aJgapa me Peter: You know are my friend.
oida filw: se 3. Jesus: Are you my friend?
filw: se Peter: You know that you are my friend.
ginwvskei filw: se
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Peters denial of Jesus proved essen7al for his development as the leader of the 1st-genera7on Church, demonstra7ng his vulnerability and brokenness, teaching him empathy, compassion and the ability to forgive both others and himself.
Listen to Peter in his own words:
The end of all things is at hand. Therefore, be serious and sober for prayers. Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a mulUtude of sins.
(1 Peter 4: 7-8)
And Peter uses ajgavph for the word love.
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1. Why does Jesus nickname Cephas Peter? 2. At the wedding at Cana, Jesus changes water
into wine, his rst miracle. Why does he make so much of it?
3. Of the 204 towns and villages in Galilee, why does Jesus choose Capernaum as his headquarters?
4. What caused Peter to deny Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest?
5. What does Jesus accomplish in his talk with Peter in John 21?
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Copyright 2015 by William C. Creasy
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