What does Matthew 26:34 mean?
ESV: Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”
NIV: Truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.'
NASB: Jesus said to him, 'Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.'
CSB: "Truly I tell you," Jesus said to him, "tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."
NLT: Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, Peter — this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.'
KJV: Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
NKJV: Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”
Verse Commentary:
In keeping with his impulsive nature, Peter has rejected Jesus' prediction that all the disciples will fall away. He has declared that even if everyone else runs away and hides, he will never do so (Matthew 26:30–33). That's not only derisive to the other disciples, it's also incredibly bold.

Jesus knows, though, that Peter's courage cannot stand the test that is coming. He tells Peter that the bold disciple will not just fall away to save himself (Matthew 26:56), he will in fact deny Jesus three times during the night before the rooster crows to signal the start of a new day (Matthew 26:69–75).

This would have been devastating for Peter to hear, especially coming directly from Jesus. The traitorous actions of Judas would be the worst of all: to actively work to harm his master (Matthew 26:21–22). On the other extreme, to "fall away" implies running and hiding when Jesus was in danger. To "deny" his relationship to Christ suggested a level of cowardice and unfaithfulness Peter simply could not imagine of himself. He had never known Jesus to be wrong, but Peter would not accept this statement (Matthew 26:35; 69–75).

Peter will learn, eventually, that Jesus does not want followers who think they are strong in themselves. He wants those who know they are strong in Him.
Verse Context:
Matthew 26:17–35 begins with locating the room which will be used for the Passover meal. While they are eating, Jesus announces that one of His closest disciples will become a traitor. Judas discovers that Jesus knows it is him. Jesus introduces the concept of bread and wine as symbols of His sacrificial body and blood. After the meal, Jesus tells the disciples they will fall away that night and that Peter will deny Him three times. They insist that will not happen. Mark 14:10–31, Luke 22:3–23, Luke 22:31–34, and John 13:21–38 feature these events, as well.
Chapter Summary:
The Jewish religious leaders further their plots to arrest and kill Jesus, finding a willing traitor in Judas Iscariot. A woman anoints Christ with oil during a dinner at Bethany. Next, Jesus and the disciples hold the Passover meal in an upper room where Jesus predicts His arrests and introduces the sacrament of communion. Then Jesus prays in unimaginable agony in the garden of Gethsemane before being betrayed by Judas and captured. The disciples scatter. Before the high priest, Jesus explicitly claims to be divine. They convict Him of blasphemy and sentence Him to death. As this happens, Peter denies knowing Jesus and runs away in shame.
Chapter Context:
After a long series of teaching (Matthew 24—25), Matthew 26 begins with Jesus saying He will be delivered up for death. Christ is anointed at a dinner in Bethany and Judas agrees to turn Him over to the chief priests. Jesus holds a Passover meal with the disciples, predicts an act of treachery, and introduces the sacrament of communion. He tells the disciples they will run in fear and that Peter will deny Him, which happens just as prophesied. Christ prays in great sorrow in a garden and is then arrested and taken away and unfairly sentenced to death. After this, Jesus will be taken to the Roman governor, where Jewish leadership will press for Him to be executed as an insurgent.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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