“Going over to the entranceway, another saw him and there said, ‘This one was with Jesus of Nazareth!’ But again he disowned him with an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’”
“And the slave-girl saw him and began to say again to those present, ‘This one is from them.’ But again he disowned him. But in a short while, again those present said to Peter, ‘Truly, you are from them because you are Galilean.’”
“And a short time later another saw him and affirmed, ‘You are also one of them!’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not!’”
“Then Simon Peter was standing and warming himself; there one said to him, ‘Aren’t you also one of his disciples?’ He disowned him and said, ‘I am not.’”
We know from Mark’s account of Peter’s denials that after the first time he disowned Jesus, Peter moved over toward the door. John relates that Peter is still standing by the fire warming himself, though the simple solution is that it is a different fire than before and perhaps is one located much closer to the entrance to the courtyard. Likely, Peter is fearing that he is identifiable and is moving to an area where he can more easily flee. The last thing one would want is to be cornered by an angry mob within the walls of Caiaphas’ court. Then again, he desperately wants to know what will happen with his master. Such is the agony of this evening.
And, to make the matters worse, he is recognized by a second person. This time, some profiling takes place. Why would a Galilean be hanging out in Jerusalem at an illegal midnight trial unless that Galilean were connected to the Galilean who was on trial? In our age the idea of profiling is considered a form of racism, but there are times and places where a profile is made by the simple application of logic…this reasonably being one of them. And once again, Peter seeks to save his skin by denying his relationship with Jesus. This time he adds an oath — it is also clear that Peter is beginning to get mad. From our perspective it might seem a bit odd for us that Peter is getting upset, but then again, Peter is realizing that he has put himself in a dangerous place and is unable to “blend in” to the crowd. Surely we can relate to the combination of frustration (with himself) that must be overwhelming Peter at this point and in that context can begin to see why his anger is rising.
Our situation is different and thankfully we will never be in exactly the same shoes as Peter is at this moment in Peter’s life. That said, we are often faced with times when we are challenged in word or in action to follow Christ in dangerous times and settings. Certainly this is a lesson that every missionary in Muslim lands has had to learn, but it is also the lesson that is sometimes learned in the workplace or school. Surely in this latter context our life is not at risk, but we may be exposing ourselves to mockery or worse if we speak up as a believer. Yet, if Christ did this for us, why should we not face mockery (or worse!) for him? Loved ones, immerse yourselves in Peter’s struggle here and see the guilt and grief he bears after his failure. Learn from him and be willing to stand when the challenges rise around you. Honor Christ by being willing to sacrifice your comfort and security to speak truth into a dying world that so desperately needs the hope of the Gospel (and needs to see it lived out boldly in you!).