A reflection on Peter’s denial by The Very Reverend David Shearlock.
Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard and a maid came up to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’ But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’ And when he went out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’ And again he denied it with an oath, ’I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.’ Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know the man.’ And immediately the cock crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.
Try to picture the scene as if you were one of the bystanders.
- Here we see the amazing honesty of the New Testament: there’s no cover up, no attempt to paint a kinder portrait of Peter.
- Another side of Peter is revealed here, a man of great courage who kept close to Jesus when the others ran away.
- The maid’s comment could well become a motto for each of us: ‘This man was with him, too.’ We need to be known as people who have been with Jesus.
- We deny him whenever we put anything in the place of Christ or remain silent when he is blasphemed or denied. Here, though, we see how readily Jesus forgives.
- At the end of this passage, Peter weeps bitterly but it was his love for Jesus that brought on those tears.
A final thought: legend tells of a time when Christians were being persecuted in Rome. Peter runs away but is met by Christ. ‘Domine, quo vadis?’ he asks Jesus. ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answers, ‘to Rome, to be crucified’ Peter turns back and soon it is to be his turn for, while he is being nailed to a cross, he asks to be crucified upside down: ‘I’m not worthy to die as Jesus died.’