In the Fulness of Time/Part 150

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2011
In the accounts of Peter’s denials, as in other accounts in the life of Jesus recorded in the bible, variations do exist in all four Gospels. This is to be expected since each writer recorded what he had learned from his own sources, and ultimately from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Inspiration did not demand word for word identity; this would have been mechanical dictation. Each author was free to use his own style, his ability as a writer and his own sources. Careful comparison will show that there are no contradictions even though there are differences.

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Three Denials of Christ by Peter, Matthew 26:69-75

He had no relationship to their accusation. Matthew 26:69-70

Mt. 26:69-70 “Now Peter sat outside in the court, and a maid came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied it before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.”

Matthew’s account is followed here, with the realization that variations do exist in all four Gospels; yet, this is to be expected since each writer recorded what he had learned from his own sources, and ultimately from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Inspiration did not demand word for word identity; this would have been mechanical dictation. Each author was free to use his own style, his ability as a writer and his own sources. Careful comparison will show that there are no contradictions even though there are differences. It should be kept in mind that there were various groups around Peter on each occasion, and more than one person may have entered into the discussion at any time. Therefore, reports of such accusations and Peter’s denials would differ, depending upon what each eyewitness saw and heard.

According to 26:69, a maid said: “Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.” Peter’s response was that he did not know nor understand what she was saying (Mark 14:68). Several have noted that even this first denial was the form commonly used in rabbinical law for a legal denial. In essence, Peter was saying that he had no relationship at all to what they were saying. The fact that he: “denied it before them all” (verse 70) indicates that there was more than a one-to-one conversation.

He had no companionship with Jesus. Matthew 26:71-72

Mt. 26:71-72 “And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.”

Peter left the first group, thinking perhaps that this was a coincidence, and that if he moved away from them out onto the porch, he would not be questioned again. But he was accosted by another servant girl who was with another group, and said “to them that were there, this fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth” (verse 71). This time Peter came right out and used a more direct oath upon himself: “I know not the man.” This was more specific than saying that he did not know generally what they were talking about. His oath specifically denied that he was a companion of Jesus, which, by the way, was mentioned by both maids!

He had no discipleship with Jesus. Matthew 26:73-75

Mt. 26:73-75 “And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them: for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, who said unto him, Before the cock crows, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.”

It was about an hour later (Luke 22:59) when “they that stood by” came to Peter and said: “surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee.” One man in this third group was a relative of Malchus, whose ear Peter had cut off, and he identified Peter as having been in the garden of Gethsemane with Jesus. Thus, there was no doubt in his mind that Peter was “one of them,” that is, a disciple of Jesus. Therefore, it became necessary to deny this close association with Jesus, so, to make it all the more convincing, Peter began cursing and swearing: “I know not the man.” He may have said the same words before, but this time his cowardice lowered his language to the level of the streets!

Immediately two things happened; first, the final crowing of the cock, and second, the awesome experience when: “the Lord turned and looked upon Peter” (Luke 22:61). What was communicated in that look is not revealed, except in the reaction of Peter. He remembered what Jesus had prophesied about his three denials and it must have hit him as a dagger twisting in his heart, causing him to agonize concerning his cowardice, for “he went out and wept bitterly.”

Satan was able to trip Peter, but he trapped Judas. Judas could only be remorseful that he had betrayed innocent blood (Matthew 27:3-4). Peter, on the other hand, denied his Lord, but later repented, and was restored (John 21:15-18).

Decision to send Jesus to Pilate. Matthew 27:1-2

27:1-2 “When the morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death, and when they had bound him, they led him away and delivered him to Pontius Pilate, the governor.”

The meeting in the morning was more of an affirmation to carry out the decision of the night before than it was a separate trial of Jesus. It is true, as stated in Mark 15:1 that the whole Sanhedrin was involved. The morning meeting gave opportunity to assemble any members who were not in attendance at the night trial.

The sentence they wanted was nothing short of the death penalty. As Jews, they were unable to execute prisoners (John 18:31), so if they were to bring Jesus before Pilate, it was necessary to accuse Him of something worthy of death against the Roman government. Blasphemy against Jehovah would hardly have been valid, because the Romans had their own deities. Thus, in Luke 23:2 they told Pilate that Jesus had been “perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ, a King.” It is possible that at that morning meeting the Sanhedrin made some kind of a list of such accusations to present before Pilate, the “governor” or procurator of Judea under Tiberius Caesar (Luke 3:1). As will be noted, all of these accusations were completely false, or were deliberate misrepresentations of what Jesus actually said.

Death of Judas. Matthew 27: 3-10

His Suicide. Matthew 27:3-5

Mt. 27:3-5 “Then Judas, who had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed innocent blood, and they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the Temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.”

Some have maintained that this account of the death of Judas and the buying of the potter’s field is parenthetical and thus out of place in the narrative of Jesus’ trials; but verse 3 shows that Judas was observing the trial, and “when he saw that he was condemned, he repented.” Perhaps he thought that some lesser punishment would be pronounced, and when he heard the final verdict he had some pangs of conscience, because he said: “I have betrayed innocent blood.”

Two Greek words are used in the New Testament for repentance, metano-eo and metamelomai (used here). In Classical Greek there is not as much distinction between these two verbs, but as Trench observed concerning the difference in usage, that while the infinitive metanoein and the noun metanoia “became the fixed and recognized words to express that mighty change in mind, heart and life by the Spirit of God,” this meaning for metamellomai “has been noted as never occurring in the N.T.” He went on to state: “there does remain, both in sacred and profane use, a very distinct preference for metanoia as the expression of the nobler repentance…. He who has changed his mind about the past is in the way to change everything; he who has an after care may have little or nothing more than a selfish dread of the consequences of what he has done” (Trench, R.C. Synonyms of the New Testament. Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1960, pp. 260-261). Judas had a change of mood, but not a heartfelt change of mind. Judas never really believed in Christ; otherwise the Lord would never have called him “the son of perdition” (John 17: 12) as He prayed to His heavenly Father!

When Judas attempted to return his pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, they sarcastically replied: “What is that to us? See thou to that.” With that, Judas threw the silver in the Temple, and went out and hanged himself. Acts 1:18 described it differently, but not in contradiction to Matthew: “Falling headlong, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out.” Exactly where Judas hanged himself and how he did it are not revealed. This lack of detail could be filled out in a number of ways. For example, it could have been that his body hung there for several days and “the hot sun might have brought on rapid decomposition till the body fell to the ground and burst open” (Carson, Donald A. Matthew, in Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1984. Vol. 8, p. 562).

His Silver Pieces. Matthew 27:6-10

Mt. 27:6-10 “And the priest took the pieces of silver, and said, It is not lawful to put them in the treasury, because it is the price of blood. And they took counsel, and bought with them the potter’s field to bury strangers in, Wherefore, that field was called The field of blood unto this day. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was valued, whom they of the children did value, and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord appointed me.”

Because the pieces of silver were blood money, the chief priests could not legally put them in the Treasury. Ironically, they did not want to acknowledge any part in the acquisition of the pieces of silver, as though this would absolve them of their evil deed of condemning innocent blood to death. Their corrupt practices allowed them to pay Judas for betraying Christ, but their warped thinking would not permit them to put that same money back into the Treasury!

To salve their consciences, they decided to buy the potter’s field in which to bury strangers. Since it was purchased with blood money, the field became known as the field of blood. Matthew quoted Scripture from Zechariah 11:12-13 as fulfilled in this action of the chief priests, saying that it “was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet.” Numerous attempts to relate this to Jeremiah 8, 9 or 32 have been shown to be inadequate by Keil and Delitzsch (Minor Prophets, Vol. 2, pp. 367-377). Though there are difficulties in any explanation, one of the most satisfying is that the Hebrew Bible was divided into three sections, the Law, the Psalms (including other writings) and the Prophets which were arranged with the scroll of Jeremiah at the beginning of that section. Lenski puts it this way: “Lightfoot cites the Baba Bathra and rabbi David Kinchi’s Preface to the prophet Jeremiah as his authorities…. Thus any passage from this third section of the Old Testament would be from ‘Jeremiah’” (Lenski, R.C.H. Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel. Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1932, p.1063). “In the fulness of time,” all these seeming difficulties will be explained in Glory.

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