53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
68 But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.[g]
69 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
71 He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time.[h] Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice[i] you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Confession and Denial
Mark intentionally intertwines the tale of Jesus’ confession with the tale of Peter’s denial. Whilst one character rises to the moment, the other falls away. It is a contrast between the blustering leader who can’t follow through his protestations of loyalty, and the quiet power of the true king. There is an irony, too. As the accusers are mocking Jesus for not being able to prophesy and tell them who hit him, outside at that very moment a prophesy that he has foretold is coming true. The cock crows in warning and then the cock crows its completion. It is possible that Peter does not call down curses on himself, but passionately calls down curses on Jesus. He is like a cornered dog who turns and bites his master.
What exactly does Jesus confess? He takes two passages and brings them together to compose the statement that he issues. In so doing he states that he is the Messiah and he will be vindicated. In effect he says that he will come in judgment upon the Jewish leaders and he is their superior. In their eyes no-one is their superior except God and it is blasphemy to use the Bible to speak untruth in this way. He claims to be Messiah and should be killed as a rebel by Rome; He is a false Messiah and needs to be extinguished by his own people. Jesus fulfills his own prophesy in laying down his life. He had told his disciples these events would occur. One prophesy outside and one prophesy within, both fulfilled as they shout, “Prophesy!”
You laid down your life with such courage. You knew how it would be and you wouldn’t let the frenzied accusations lead you away from your path. I see you in my mind’s eye and you are resolute. You speak the words that will condemn you. I can follow you as far as the strength you give me will carry me. I think of myself more like Peter, but you even gave him renewed strength so that far after this event he could walk resolute to his death.
I feel like the world is in a dark time. Whatever may come, let us set our faces and walk toward the light.
- How was Jesus treated?
- What does Peter’s parallel story teach us?
- How would the story of Jesus’ trial help those in the Roman Empire undergoing similar trials?
- How can you find Jesus’ strength in times of trial?
- How grateful are you that Jesus endured the trial and made his confession?