SynopsisThis passage fulfils a prophecy Jesus made back in verses 30–35; Jesus had told the disciples they were about to abandon him, and Peter said that this might be true of the rest of the disciples, but he would never abandon Jesus, to which Jesus made it even more specific: not only would Peter deny Jesus, he would do it three times this very night.
Sometimes I don’t even bother to do a “synopsis,” and now I’m redoing synopses even for previous passages. I’m nothing if not inconsistent…
Recall that in the last passage when Jesus was arrested Peter had followed him at a distance, and was sitting in the courtyard with the guards, to see what would happen. In this passage a servant girl comes up to him, and, recognizing him, says that he was with Jesus, but Peter says “I do not know what you mean” (verse 70 (ESV)). He then moves to a different spot (possibly to get away from her), but another servant girl sees and recognizes him, and tells the people around them that Peter was with Jesus. Peter again denies it, saying with an oath that “I do not know the man” (verse 72 (ESV)).
But then some bystanders come and confront Peter, because his accent gives him away; certainly he must be “one of them” (verse 73 (ESV)). (The reason Peter’s accent gave him away is that he sounded Galilean, and, as the ESV Study Bible notes point out, “Jesus’ disciples (except Judas) were from Galilee, and Judeans in Jerusalem looked down on Galileans for their regional pronunciations.”) Peter denies it even more vehemently this time, invoking a curse on himself and swearing that “I do not know the man” (verse 74 (ESV)). At this point the rooster crows, which reminds Peter about Jesus’ prediction.
Peter now goes out and weeps bitterly.
ThoughtsI don’t know what I can add to this other than what everyone says about this passage. Peter, who had so strongly argued to Jesus that he would never betray his Lord, does exactly what Jesus said he would do: deny him, over and over again. Obviously Jesus’ prediction was not at all on Peter’s mind as he kept denying him—more and more strongly each time—until the rooster crowed, which reminded him of Jesus’ words.
Peter should probably get some credit for following Jesus as far as he did—none of the other disciples did—but I don’t know that he should get much credit, as he still did it secretly, from a distance, and he denied Jesus repeatedly.