These small group studies of the gospel of Mark contain outlines, commentary, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Mark 14:53-72 Verse By Verse Bible Study Commentary


I. Jesus before the Sanhedrin (53-65)

II. Peter denies Jesus three times (66-72)

I. Jesus before the Sanhedrin (53-65)

Discussion Questions

What was the goal of the high priest and other priests in this “trial?”

What do we learn about Peter in verse 54? How did he get in (see parallel passages?)

What does verse 55 teach us about the people accusing Jesus? What should a judge or jury “keep trying” to do?

Why was it a problem that their counsel was not consistent?

What was the Old Testament law on this point?

Did Jesus say what they accused Him of in verse 58?

How did Jesus react to all of these accusations? What do we learn from Jesus here? Why did He remain silent?

How did Jesus’ answer the high priest’s key question? Why did He answer this instead of remaining silent?

How did they label Jesus’ declaration? What was the punishment for this offense?

What do you learn about these men in verse 65?


Deuteronomy 17:6 – On the basis of two or three witnesses a person could be put to death.

Leviticus 24:10-14, Numbers 15:30-31 – Punishment for blasphemy.

Isaiah 53:7 – He was oppressed and afflicted but he did not open his mouth.

First Jewish Trial – John 18:12-24

Second Jewish Trial –

Matthew 26:57-68 – Jesus’ second trial (before Caiaphas).

Luke 22:63-65 – They already started beating Jesus before His second Jewish trial.

Matthew 26:69-75 – Peter’s denial, more descriptive.

Luke 12:9 – He who denies Jesus before men will be denied by Him before the Father.

Romans 1:16 – Paul was not ashamed.

Acts 14:3 – They were speaking boldly with reliance on the Lord.


The last supper, Communion Instituted (night before His death)

The Lord’s prayer after dinner (night before)

The prayer in the garden (night before, Matthew 26:36-46)

The arrest (night before)

The first trial before Annas (night before)

Peter’s denial (night before)

Jesus is beaten by the temple guards (night before Luke 22:63-65)

Jesus’ second trial, before Caiaphas (night before Matthew 26:57-68)

Jesus’ first Roman trial (the morning of His death (Matthew 27:1, John 18:28)

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. They led Jesus away to the high priest – The high priest was Caiaphas. This is actually the second of Jesus’ trials before the Jews. The first one he appeared before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Here we see that the chief priests, elders, and scribes were also called together. It appears that this is the entire Sanhedrin.

2. Peter followed Jesus and entered the courtyard. See John 18:15-18. In this passage we see that Peter along with probably John follow Jesus all the way to the courtyard of the temple. From this perspective Peter could be considered braver than the other ten disciples who didn’t even follow Jesus this far. He seems to have been mixing with the people and expecting that in the dark no one would recognize him. It is interesting that at several points during this very important historical account of Jesus’ trials the gospel writers interject Peter’s story right into the middle of it. Why is this story so important?

3. They kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus – This phrase makes it clear right from the beginning that the “trial” is rigged. The rulers had a clear agenda. They wanted Jesus killed and desperately sought for any reason to justify themselves in doing it (they would also have wanted to have a so called legal reason to give to any crowds.) And this is really the core problem the religious leaders have had the whole time. When they should be diligently seeking for the truth, they are instead desperately pushing forward their own agenda. If at any point during Jesus’ ministry they collectively took a breath and said “let’s consider this objectively and find out the truth” they could have come to the conclusion that Jesus is true and therefore have followed Him. But they never did so. Time after time again Jesus answered their questions, solved their problems, and defeated their logic and they never stopped to consider that He was right. Amazing miracles were ignored while they focused on ticky tacky issues. The religious leaders were extremely stubborn and unwilling to be open or teachable or even consider that they were wrong. This led them to instantly reject any evidence that didn’t support their own opinions.

Application: It is easy to fault the religious leaders for this stubborn attitude, but sometimes we have the same attitude as well. When you disagree with someone, are you willing to listen with an open mind? Or are you thinking of your next argument the entire time they are talking? Are you willing to change your opinions or ideas and admit you are wrong or do you stick to your guns until the very end? See Proverbs 12:15, 18:13, and 29:1.

4. Their testimony was not consistent – For the religious leaders who sought to have Jesus executed legally, this was a problem. According to Deuteronomy 17:6, no one could be executed unless two or three witnesses confirmed the facts. One witness is not enough and two witnesses who give different accounts is not enough either. Both the brilliance of God’s law in the Old Testament and the weak non-existent case they had against Jesus are highlighted here. If two people are both lying to condemn someone, it is likely that their lies will not be consistent. Whereas if two people both tell the same story, it is likely to be true. God’s law in the OT wisely helped prevent wrongful executions made possible by deceit. The fact that witnesses could not agree against Jesus proved they were lying and had a secret agenda (agendas never go well with justice).

5. Verse 58-59 – They were inconsistent in this accusation because this is not what Jesus said. See John 2:19. Their first problem was that they ignored the figurative language of Jesus’ statement. Beyond that it seems that they sought to make Jesus’ words sound worse than they really were. In their zeal to condemn Jesus they could not even agree on this statement which Jesus had made publicly for all to hear. One can almost picture Caiaphas and the other priests leaning forward in their chairs rubbing their hands together with a glint in their eyes waiting for the witnesses to condemn Jesus. Each time the witnesses’ story fall apart, you can envision them sighing with looks of disgust on their face and growing more impatient by the second. Here Jesus was in their very grasp. They couldn’t let Him escape this time!

6. The high priest questions Jesus – At this point it seems that Caiaphas has had enough of this circus. He is ready to take control and end this. He certainly does not ask Jesus to defend Himself because He wants the truth or to give Jesus a chance to share His version. More likely, he is hoping that Jesus will somehow stumble and accidentally give them the ammunition they need to condemn Him.

7. Jesus kept silent – What lesson can you learn from this?

A. Sometimes silence is the best choice. Many times it is pointless to argue with fools. Nothing Jesus could say could convince them or change their minds. At best they would ignore it and at worst they would twist what He said. They had already made up their minds to kill Him. In what kind of situations is it better for us to be quiet?

B. This shows Jesus’ humility. A prideful person could not have kept quiet in this situation. Even if he knew that presenting his case would do no good, he would still desire to be heard.

C. This fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:7, highlighting the fact that Jesus died as a sacrifice for sins like a lamb.

D. Do not stoop down to the level of others. This whole “trial” was a sham. Jesus’ silence highlighted this. Just because a fool challenges you to do something (such as a duel in the past, or a dare, or an attempt to argue) doesn’t mean you have to join in.

8. Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? Here is a clear chance for Jesus to correct everyone’s misconception about what He had said. All He had to do is say one simple word, “no” and all this would have likely gone away. They would have had no choice but to acquit Him. Meanwhile Jesus would have cleared Himself and let everyone know that they misunderstood Him. This was a very smart question by Caiaphas. A “no” answer and they could tell everyone that Jesus is just a normal man. Jesus’ following would have shrunk. But a “yes” answer and they could proceed to execution and claim that Jesus’ blasphemed.

Jesus answers a very powerful affirmative. This is a very important statement. Some have said that Jesus never made this claim and Paul and others later invented Christianity and made Jesus out to be something different than what He said. But Jesus made it clear in His own words that He is the very Son of God and in fact would sit at the right hand of God and come to rule the earth on the clouds of heaven.

9. 63-64 – The high priest believed that this statement was worthy of death. Of course he ignored all of the evidence that proved Jesus is who He said. See notes on blasphemy below. They all condemned Him. See Exodus 23:2. Why did no one speak out against this? In a group this size did everyone want to kill Jesus? Where is the dissenting voice? Where is the voice of reason? Unfortunately there is no dissenting voice. Public opinion or peer pressure can be like a wave. It often starts with a few very outspoken people. Soon others agree with them because it is the popular thing to do. Soon even those who disagree are afraid to say something because disagreeing is so unpopular. We should remember the verse in Exodus 23:2. Never follow a crowd to do evil, no matter how much pressure they put on you to do so.

10. Verse 65 – You can see their intense hatred of Jesus in this verse. Their hatred completely blinds them. An outside viewer can look at this and reasonably conclude that this behavior is Satanic and certainly not of God. Rage is driving them, not love, not grace.

Resources – On Blasphemy from

Definition. In English “blasphemy” denotes any utterance that insults God or Christ (or Allah, or Muhammed) and gives deeply felt offense to their followers. In several states in the United States and in Britain, blasphemy is a criminal offense, although there have been few prosecution in this century. In Islamic countries generally no distinction is made between blasphemy and heresy, so that any perceived rejection of the Prophet or his message, by Muslims or non-Muslims, is regarded as blasphemous.

The biblical concept is very different. There is no Hebrew word equivalent to the English “blasphemy, ” and the Greek rootblasphem- [blasfhmevw], which is used fifty-five times in the New Testament, has a wide meaning. In both Testaments the idea of blasphemy as something that offends the religious sensibilities of others is completely absent.

The Old Testament At least five different Hebrew verbs are translated “blaspheme” in English translations. Translators choose “blaspheme” when, for instance, different verbs meaning “curse” are used with God as the object. No special verb is reserved for cursing or insults directed at God.

However, to curse or insult God is an especially grave sin. It can be done by word or by deed. There is little distinction between the sinner who deliberately abuses the name of the Lord ( Le 24:10-16 ), and the one who deliberately flouts his commandments ( Nu 15:30-31 ). For both, the death penalty is prescribed. Similarly, the prayer of the Levites in Nehemiah 9 calls “awful blasphemies” all that Israelites did when they made the golden calf (9:18).

David’s flagrant sin with Bathsheba may be called a blasphemy ( 2 Sa 12:14 ), but a more likely translation is that David has “made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt” (NIV). Instead of testifying by lifestyle to the character of the Lord, David’s action confirms the blasphemous belief of the nations that the Lord is no different from any other national god.

The New Testament. The Greek root blasphem- [blasfhmevw] can be used of strong insults thrown at other people ( Mark 15:29 ; Acts 13:45 ; Eph 4:31 ; 1 Peter 4:4 ), or even unjust accusations ( Rom 3:8 ), but it is more usually used of insults offered to God (e.g., Rev 13:6 ; 16:9 ). Jesus is accused of blasphemy for pronouncing forgiveness and for claiming a unique relationship with God ( Matt 26:65 ; Mark 2:7 ; John 10:33 ).

Jesus picks up the Numbers 15 passage about blasphemy in his famous saying about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit ( Matt 12:31-32 ; Mark 3:28-29 ; Luke 12:10 ). Numbers 15:22-31 distinguishes between unintentional sin committed in ignorance (for which forgiveness is possible), and defiant sin, called blasphemy, for which there is no forgiveness. Jesus teaches that the blasphemy for which there is no forgiveness is that against the Holy Spirit; all other blasphemies, particularly those against “the Son of Man, ” may be forgiven. Insults thrown at “the Son of Man” may be forgiven because they are committed in ignorance of who he really is: his heavenly glory does not appear on earth. But to ascribe obvious manifestations of the Spirit to the devil’s agency is a much more serious offense not committed in ignorance.

This downgrading of the significance of blasphemy against Christ marks an important difference between Christianity and Islam. Whereas Muslims are bound to defend the honor of the Prophet, for Christians Jesus is the one who says, “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me” ( Rom 15:3, ; quoting Psalm 69:9 ). He deliberately accepts the vilification of others and prays for the forgiveness of those who insult him ( Luke 23:34 ). In this, he sets an example for Christians to follow. According to Peter ( 1 Pe 2:19-25 ), they must accept insult and blasphemy without retaliation, as he did.

There is only one kind of blasphemy that Christians must resist: the blasphemy they will bring on themselves if they cause a fellow believer to stumble through the thoughtless exercise of their freedom ( Rom 14:15-16 ; 1 Cor 10:28-30 ).

II. Peter denies Jesus three times (66-72)


Peter here denies Jesus for the 2nd and 3rd times. Peter was one of only two disciples who even followed Jesus this far. So in essence he was the second bravest disciple. Yet he still vehemently denies his relationship to Christ. He is scared and doesn’t want to face the fate that Jesus did.


Matthew 26:69-75 – Peter’s denial, more descriptive.

Luke 12:9 – He who denies Jesus before men will be denied by Him before the Father.

Romans 1:16 – Paul was not ashamed.

Acts 14:3 – They were speaking boldly with reliance on the Lord.

Discussion Questions

What can we learn from Peter’s denials?

Why do you think Peter denied Christ though he was committed to Him?

Why are things like this even mentioned in the Bible?

These kinds of things are included in the Bible so that we can learn from the mistakes of others without experiencing them all firsthand. There is no doubt Peter was committed. He truly meant it when he expressed willingness to die for Christ. But he was prideful and self-confident rather than God-confident. He relied on himself and his own strength. The result was disastrous. Not one, not two, but THREE serious denials of His relationship to Christ. This can happen to anyone. No one is immune. If we get prideful and think we are immune we will fall. We must be alert to Satan’s attacks all the time and continually rely on God and be confident in Him. Read cross-references. This is really a sad event and Peter himself weeps bitterly over it. But learn from Peter’s mistake. I’m sure if Peter were here now he would tell us how sorrowful and full of grief he was and urge is to always humbly stand for Christ no matter what the consequences. Don’t experience this sadness for yourself.

The rooster was Jesus’ way to remind Peter about the prophecy. Even during this time Jesus was still teaching Peter. Normally after we sin comes the moment of recognition and guilt when we feel very sorry for what we did. Try to think of that moment ahead of time before doing the sin!

More than anything else, this story reminds me of the grace of God. Lately I have been thinking about the sins of many key Bible characters. David was an adulterer and a murderer. Samson was lustful and visited prostitutes. Abraham and Isaac willfully lied to protect their own skins and gave up their responsibility to protect their wives. Solomon wrote most of Proverbs and yet had 1000 wives/concubines (easy to tell others not to fall into lust when you have 1000 women of your own, huh?) Hezekiah was happy with the news that the kingdom was going to be ruined because it wouldn’t happen in his lifetime. Jacob was a deceiver and a schemer. Peter denied Christ. The list goes on and on. If these people existed today, we may condemn them for their sins. But God had mercy on them. He poured out His grace on them even when they didn’t deserve it. This is good news for us! We are not better than Peter or Jacob or David. Many times we are even worse. And yet, God does not reject us just like He didn’t reject them. He loves us even when we don’t deserve it. Do not look down on others with a judgmental attitude. Instead look at yourself and continuously thank the Lord that you haven’t been punished as you deserve.

STUDY MARK 15:21-41
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