I Know Not The Man

James Boyd

"And he went out and wept bitterly." {Matthew 26:75b). Obviously, we have a scene of a man in deep agony, heart broken, and the depth of indescribable grief. The word translated “bitterly” means a grief so intense that it actually inflicts literal physical pain. It is a state of uncontrollable emotional and spiritual distress. The man in such a state was the Apostle Peter.

Why was Peter in this state of suffering? What had brought it about? “Now Peter sat without in the palace, and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all saying, I know not what thou sayest. 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. 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 bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:69-75).

Luke records an additional and significant point of the story. “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.” (Luke 22:61a). Just before Peter went out and wept bitterly, Peter had been the object of a look from Christ. What was it about this look that moved Peter so? Had not the Lord looked upon Peter before? Yes, certainly, but this look recalled to Peter's mind the words of Christ how that Peter would deny Him thrice before the cock crew. Sure enough, following his third denial of Jesus, the cock crew. The look from Jesus pierced him to the heart with the conviction of his transgression.

Steps Toward Denial

Let us briefly consider the circumstances leading to Peter's denials of Christ. Christ and the apostles had observed the last Passover Supper. At this gathering the Lord had instituted the Lord's Supper that would be observed in His kingdom. They had sung a hymn together in the sweet fellowship and companionship they all had known together. Once in the garden on the Mount of Olives Jesus remarked, “All ye shall be offended of me this night; for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” (Matthew 26:31). No doubt these words were shocking to the apostles. The implication was obvious. The Lord would be smitten which was bad enough in itself. But they would be ashamed of Him, offended at Him, and would forsake Him. Such a thought must have been intolerable for them to seriously consider at that time. And it was Peter who responded, “Though all men shall be offended because of thee. Yet I will never be offended. Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.” (Matthew 26:33-35). Take note that all emphatically said they would remain loyal.

Peter's Agression

After a time in the garden of Gethsemane, those who sought Jesus, led by Judas, came to take Him away. Then a significant thing happened. "And behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear.” (Matthew 26:51). John 18: 10 tell us the servant's name was Malthus, and the man with the sword was Peter. It has been said that Peter was really swinging for his head and missed, but this is speculation, though not altogether an unreasonable thought.

There are two reasons why this event was significant. One, it proves the good intentions of Peter that were behind his earlier words of loyalty at all costs. Though he dies, he would not deny His Lord. He would fight before he would allow Jesus to be taken away. Second, it proves the sincerity of Peter. He had a great zeal, but it was not properly guided. But his sincerity was unmistakable.

Jesus was led away to a series of six trials, three before the Jews and three before the Romans. In these trials, as Isaiah had foretold, “his judgment was taken away” by the desecration of justice. Unfairness, illegalities and false witnesses ruled the day.

Peter Followed

Later Peter was identified as one of those who followed Christ, as we have read. He followed Christ afar off, that is, not close enough to be identified with Jesus, but not near enough to do Jesus or Himself any benefit. Under the circumstances, he denied Him. Why did Peter do such a turnaround? Why did he go against his own strong expressions of loyalty? Why did he deny what he knew to be true? Why did he try to emphasize his denial with cursing and swearing? Why did he go against his own intentions that were sincerely expressed?

As we seek the answer to these questions, let us be aware that we are not seeking merely to uncover the faults of Peter, but to discover why people even yet are offended in Christ, deny Christ, and say in word and deed, “I know not the man.”


The trouble began with Peter himself. He was proud, sinfully proud. “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet I will never be offended.” He was too sure of himself. He was not intentionally that way, but had been blinded to the power of temptation. He minimized it in this event. But he warned later,” Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.”

(First Peter 5:8). When he wrote that he knew whereof he spoke as well as writing by inspiration. Peter demonstrated the appropriateness of Paul's warning, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall.” (First Corinthians 10:12).

Wrong Place And People

Peter also put himself in the wrong place and with the wrong company. He followed “afar off” (Matthew 26:28). He did not declare himself to be with Jesus nor close enough to comfort Jesus. He was only close enough to show a fence straddling mentality under the pressures of the moment. He went into the high priest's place, the den of the enemies of Christ. “But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest's palace and went in, and sat with the servants to see the end. " {Matthew 26:58). Putting himself in this location, it appeared to an onlooker that he was one of the company that opposed Jesus. “And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.” (Luke 22:55). Peter warmed himself by the enemies' fire. Those that loved not the Lord had assembled for evil and “Peter sat down among them.” He had separated himself from the minority that loved Jesus and had joined the majority that rejected Him. In this unfavorable environment and the pressure of the hostile crowd around him, his loyalty was not strong enough for him to stand and provoked him to sin in denying His Lord. Once he was asked point blank of Jesus, being forced to take a stand, and stand by his word to Christ or stay in the good favor of those around him, he wrongfully chose the latter, seeking to please the wrong people. Social pressure, peer pressure, pressure of the crowd, whatever it may be labeled, caused this good man to crumble under the strain. He could not be loyal to Christ and say by his actions to the enemies of Christ, “I am one of you.”

It was mentioned earlier that Peter's action in the garden was very significant for the reasons that it proved his good intentions and sincerity. But those intentions were uttered when he was in the midst of his brethren. When he was with them he found strength and boldness. Certainly great strength can be found in the fellowship of loyal brethren. But when he was among the enemy and separated from his brethren, he folded. What more encouragement do we need to always seek fellowship from loyal and faithful Christians?

Peter had not yet learned what God through Moses taught in Exodus 23:2, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil.” He had not yet learned to sufficiently respect Psalm 1:1,“Blessed is the man that walketh not inthe counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” God's people are taught, “Be ye not unequally yoked with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore, come ye out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”(Second Corinthians 14: 18).

Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” (Matthew 6: 13) , but Peter had placed himself where sin had every opportunity. We must learn from this serious blunder of Peter that regardless of what is popular, whatever most may say or do or think, and whichever way the majority may go, we must remember right is right and wrong is wrong, and we must do right. God expects His people to do right. We will do right when we adhere to the Word of God. Following the trends, the crowds, the multitudes, the glamorous and new for the sake of "going along" will bring us into spiritual disaster.

Apostasy Can Strike

Christians today are afflicted with a similar problem that Peter faced. We can be so proud that we think, “It can't happen to me. I'm above that. I'll never forsake my Lord.” We sing good songs with those sentiments, but as we sing we must increase our alertness and determination. There are many others who, with just a few back turns of the clock, were thinking such things, but who now have done just what they said they would never do. We dare not trifle with temptation and sin. Some are saying, believing, and doing what neither they nor we would have thought was possible a few years back. Apostasy is like that.

Christians are daring the devil by placing themselves in wrong places. The nightspots, taverns, bars (even in the houses where Christians live), serving social drinks, the dance floors (even if it is called a gymnasium), such places are off-limits to the Christian. When you are in such company and engaged in such practices there is temptation to sin. Consider the evil that springs from mixed swimming, indecent body exposure, immodest dress. How many lives have been marred because Christians ignored the warnings against such temptations. Following the foolish fashions of a degenerate age is no manner of life for the child of God.

Many Christians flirt with sin while seeking to please the crowd. They keep company with the sinful, the digressive, and the liberal. They cultivate their friendships among the immoral, those with harmful habits, who are disrespectful of sacred things. Even churches today are seeking to be accepted by the community at large by sacrificing sound doctrine and compromising. Many brethren want to "go along" with almost any and every promotional stunt somebody concocts, abandoning principles of truth to "go along." We must remember that being in the "in" crowd may well mean being "out" with God. “Evil companions corrupt good morals.” Paul wrote (First Corinthians 15:33) .It is still true now. It is bewildering that Christians somehow feel compelled to “go along” with just about whatever “comes along.”

If we place ourselves in compromised positions we may well retreat in fear and cowardice when called upon to take our stand. Peter did. Are we as strong as was Peter even then? And as for Peter, once he received that look from Jesus, now realizing his sin and recalling the words of the Master, “he went out and wept bitterly.”

He Was Restored

Since Peter stumbled as he did, we can be glad that he reacted the way he did once it was laid before him. He could have hardened his heart, and in cold indifference excused himself, or just gone off his own way. Many have done exactly that once their sin was brought to their attention. He could have reacted like Judas, grief stricken but not with a godly sorrow that leads to-repentance. But a more penitent man cannot be found in Scripture than Peter in this pathetic scene of weeping bitterly. Remembering the words of his Master and crushed with guilt of sin, he obviously repented, because the rest of his life reflects that repentance. He recovered. He rejoined the disciples. We later see him running to and into the empty tomb of Christ to see for himself. We see and hear this same man boldly standing before those who called for the crucifixion of Christ and proclaiming, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made this same Jesus whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36) No longer did he whimper, “I know not the man.”But with a fervent and determined faith, he preached the Christ.