Matthewby Mike Raiter
Courtroom dramas continue to captivate people, whether real-life or in the movies. It is the battle for justice, the tussle between prosecution and defence, and the uncertainty of the jury's verdict. Now, as Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin, Matthew places two trials side-by-side. Two men who are best friends stand before hostile audiences and are called upon to stand firm and make a true confession. For both, it is a life-and-death decision. The men are Jesus and Peter.
In between the trials of Jesus, Matthew mentions how Peter warmed himself by a fire (see Luke 22:55; John 18:18). He wants us to contrast the trials these two men will face.
Normally, in a trial, evidence is presented, then an impartial judge assesses it and pronounces a verdict and sentence. However, in Jesus' trial, the verdict and sentence has already been decided (vv. 59-60). The only accusation is that Jesus threatened to destroy the temple (v. 61), a blatant distortion of His prophecy in chapter 24 (see also John 2:19; Mark 14:58). Then, when asked if He is the Christ, Jesus calmly refuses to deny it (vv. 63-64).
Peter's trial takes place in the courtyard outside (v. 58). In Jesus' trial, all the witnesses were false (v. 60), but here, there are numerous eyewitnesses who all speak with one voice: this man was with Jesus (vv. 69, 71, 73). Jesus openly admits He is God's Son (v. 64), while Peter denies emphatically that he is a disciple (vv. 70, 72, 74). In the end, Jesus is accused of blasphemy because He claimed to be God (vv. 64-65), while Peter himself blasphemes, calling down curses on his own head (v. 74).
″Immediately a cock crowed″ (v. 74) after Peter's third denial, and Jesus' prophecy was fulfilled. In that awful moment, Peter saw what a boastful, cowardly, faithless man he was, and wept bitterly (v. 75).
We may never stand trial like Peter did, but we are regularly called upon to confess that we belong to Jesus. Although this is the last mention of Peter in this gospel, it is not the end of his story. For Peter, and for us, there may be failure and bitter tears, but with Jesus there is also forgiveness and restoration.
When facing His accusers, why does Jesus sometimes answer and sometimes remain silent?
Can you think of times when we are called upon to confess that we are disciples of Jesus? On such occasions, what causes us to fear?