54 And they seized him, and led him away
, and brought him into the high priest's house. But Peter followed afar off.55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the court, and had sat down together, Peter sat in the midst of them.56 And a certain maid seeing him as he sat in the light of the fire
, and looking stedfastly upon him, said, This man also was with him.57 But he denied, saying, Woman, I know him not.58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou also art one
of them. But Peter said, Man, I am not.59 And after the space of about one hour another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this man also was with him; for he is a Galilaean.60 But Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how that he said unto him, Before the cock crow this day thou shalt deny me thrice.62 And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Peter really loved Jesus and his faith in him never failed; but in the hour of trial, which Jesus had predicted, Peter lost courage and denied his Lord. His sin, however, was unlike that of Judas. The latter was the final step in a downward course. The former was an act of cowardice in a career of moral development which resulted in blessing and service to all the followers of Christ.
The fall of Peter may be traced to his self-confidence. When he protested that he would be true to Christ, even though all should forsake him, he was sincere and expressed the true feeling of his heart, but he betrayed his pride. The immediate result was his failure to obey the Master and to watch and pray as he had been bidden; and consequently he was surprised and stunned by the arrest of Jesus, and like the other disciples, after a rash stroke in his defense, he forsook Jesus and fled. He followed Jesus to the palace of the high priest but hoped to conceal his discipleship and to be regarded as one of the excited crowd.
Every follower of Christ is in mortal danger when confident of his moral strength and especially when at the same time he is ashamed to be publicly known as a disciple, and most of all when he feels, as Peter probably felt, that confessed loyalty to Christ can under the circumstances be of no special help to his Lord. At such a time when the cause of Jesus seemed hopeless, when the courage of Peter was gone, when he was wearied by the long night of sleeplessness, when cold and lonely, the unexpected attack was made and Peter suffered his tragic defeat.
It may be easy to point the finger of scorn at the great apostle, but there are few followers of Christ who at times of less severe testing have not as truly denied their Lord, by word or deed, with cowardice and deceit and passion. Three times Peter repeated his denial and then he heard the crowing of a cock. The incident was insignificant in itself, but it recalled the word of his Master; it made Peter conscious of his disgrace but it called him to himself, and then as he turned toward the palace, for a moment he caught sight of his Lord. We may be unable to conjecture what was expressed in the face of Jesus as at that moment he |looked upon Peter.| There may have been something of rebuke, but probably there was more of unutterable sorrow and of tender sympathy. We read that as |Peter remembered the word of the Lord, ... he went out, and wept bitterly.| Surely these were tears of repentance and they prepared the way for pardon and for peace. To many a fallen follower of Christ there has come some minute providence recalling hours of glad fellowship and messages of solemn warning, and the heart has been turned toward the Master, and true repentance has been felt in realizing the pain which the disloyalty has brought to the loving Lord.
The consciousness has brought bitter tears and hours of regret and of anguish, but they have been followed by a brighter morning, by a meeting with the risen Christ, by a new confession of love, by words of peace, and by a truer life of deeper devotion to his cause.