“After a bit, those who were standing around went up to Peter and said, ‘Truly, you are also from them; your speech makes it evident.’”
“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 after about an hour had passed another was insistent saying, ‘Truly, this man was with them — he is also a Galilean!’”
“And one of the servants of the High Priest — a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off — said, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’”
This sets us up for Peter’s third denial, but notice that this challenge to Peter is one of the reasons that doing a harmony like this can be so valuable, for each Gospel writer adds a little different piece of the puzzle that helps us to better see the whole. Mark gives us the basic account, but from Matthew we also learn for sure that it was Peter’s dialect that has given him away. This can be surmised from the accounts leading up to this statement, but here Matthew confirms that his accent has given him away in Caiaphas’ court. Remember, in ancient times, people were not nearly as upwardly mobile as they are today, so most people spent their whole lives (except for festival pilgrimages to Jerusalem) within a small radius of where they were born. Thus, a variety of accents surrounding you was more uncommon than not. Peter was from the north and that gave him away as he was trying to blend in with the southerners who were conducting this trial.
Luke, the doctor interested in chronological details, adds that about an hour has passed at this point from the previous denials. This again goes to support the premise that Peter’s disowning of Jesus was taking place while Jesus was being questioned — first by Annas and then by Caiaphas. Finally, John tells us who it is from this crowd of bystanders that speaks — it is a relative of Malchus, the one whose ear was cut off by Peter himself. I suspect that were I to witness someone attack a relative of mine with a sword and cut off his ear, that I would be quick to recognize this man, and that is precisely what happened. Peter is in hot water and when the question of “fight or flight” comes up, he chooses the latter. We criticize Peter for his fearfulness, and rightfully so, but realistically, how many of us would have acted differently?
And that is one of the principles that we must keep before our eyes — does our life present a bold witness that we belong to Jesus Christ? Or, have we kept that under wraps? Would your co-workers be able to testify that they knew you were a Christian? How about neighbors? Family members? If the answer is, “no,” then that is not the end of the world — the follow up question is just, “What will you do to correct this fault?” Loved ones, live out your faith in the public sphere — not to point a figure at yourself, but to point a finger toward Christ. This world is in need of life and hope, only Jesus can provide that hope and life — if you know that, share that. It is good news for weary souls.