Mark 14:66-72 (ESV)
66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Mark brings us back to Peter and the courtyard of the high priest. First century Mediterranean homes often had large courtyards, and most of the rooms had a view of the enclosure. In large homes, both upstairs and downstairs rooms faced the courtyards. Jesus was probably upstairs, which is why Peter was referred to as “below” (v. 66). The courtyards of the wealthy would often have lavish plants and even fountains. The high priest’s courtyard had some type of fireplace. A servant girl was in the courtyard too and may have watched the door, allowing people to go in and out. She saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She studied his face, illuminated by the fire, and exclaimed, “Hey, you were with Jesus!” Peter did something quite out of character in response: he denied that he was with Jesus. In fact, he told the servant girl that he didn’t know what she was talking about. Peter moved further away from where Jesus was and went to the entryway. He was headed for the front door! The rooster crowed once. The servant girl saw him again, and began to tell others that Peter was one of Jesus’ followers. Peter denied it again! Finally, the bystanders told Peter there was no use hiding it. They could tell who he was by his Galilean accent. Peter cursed. He was so scared and frustrated that he insisted he didn’t know “this man of whom you speak” (v. 71). He couldn’t even say the name of Jesus anymore.
When the rooster crowed the second time, Peter broke down and started weeping (v. 72). Jesus stood on trial and boldly declared who he was to Caiaphas. But Peter buckled under the questioning of an ordinary servant girl. What a warning to the followers of Christ! We must always be on guard against the temptation to deny Jesus, whether by our actions or our words. We will all end up in situations where acknowledging what we really believe as followers of Christ will result in rejection and even persecution. Sometimes we want to be “undercover Christians,” but a lack of courage never defeats fear. If we are truly followers of Christ, the world just won’t fully embrace us, but it is far better to be rejected by the world than to suffer the misery Peter experienced when he compromised who he was and what he believed.