Mark 14:27-31  Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial (and Reassures the 11)

Last time Jesus introduced the disciples to the new covenant through the institution of the Lord’s Supper – communion! Verse 26 can be treated as a fitting conclusion to the institution of the Last Supper in the previous pericope, which I have chosen to follow here (following NIV), but it can just as well serve as a appropriate introduction to Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial as they transition from the upper room to the Mount of Olives (as in the ESV’s paragraph divisions).

Presumably somewhere along their walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus predicts “You will all fall away” quoting from the prophet Zechariah (v. 27):

“I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered” – Jesus of Nazareth (citing Zech. 3:17)

This can’t have felt good to the disciples, but in both the context of Mark as well as Jesus’ citation from Zechariah, this is part of the process of refining (Geddert, BCBC) and here in Mark specifically “the creation of a new people of God” (Lane, NICNT). But the sadness of this foretelling is coupled with the promise of a reunion in Galilee after Jesus is raised from the dead (v. 28)!

Peter, who will later lead this band of renewed failures, is first to put his foot in his mouth: “Even though they all fall away, I will not” he blurts out with his usual brashness (v. 29)! Really? Jesus’ response puts him in his place:

“Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” – Jesus  (Mark 14:30)

Well that ought to take him down a couple pegs. Jesus’ prophecy is for the immediate future – “tonight” (NIV, v. 30), and it’s specificity (“twice,” and “three times”) must have been stinging as it’s details were played out before Peter’s very eyes and ears in the coming hours.

But Peter is in fact, not deterred in his arrogance by Jesus’ words. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” he retorts,

And all the others said the same. (Mark 14:31, NIV)

This final phrase of the pericope makes it clear that in this narrative, Peter actually serves as a representative of all the disciples (Garland, NIVAC). It is clear, Jesus has predicted it – all the disciples will abandon Jesus! In contrast to the failure of the 11, it is the faithfulness of Jesus that makes possible their forgiveness and renewal of which he has also here assured them (v. 28), after which they will all be restored “and brought back on the road of discipleship and mission” (Geddert).

Are we so different, us, as followers of Jesus today? Our stories of failure may vary, but we have all walked away, all denied Him, all failed Him. Yet He calls us his own. He calls us “friends” (Jn. 15:15). He continues to beckon us: “Follow Me!” We are all here only by pure grace as so beautifully and clearly demonstrated in Jesus’ faithfulness to walk all the way to the cross “in our stead” (see David Allan Hubbard, What We Evangelicals Believe, p. 12 on item 5 in Fuller Theological Seminary’s Statement of Faith). And like the 11 here, in spite of our repeated failures, Jesus restores us, renews us, and calls us to continued discipleship, and sends us on mission into our world (even in our current context).

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better reason, or a better day than today to… follow Him!