Understanding St. Peter’s Betrayal

Again, from Arnold Lunn, NOW I SEE (1945):

St. Mark is supposed to have written at St. Peter’s dictation.  He tells the story of the denial without wasting a word.  The chapter ends with a verse as simple as it is tragic.  ‘And the second time the cock crowed.”  And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said until him, Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice.  And when he thought thereon, he wept.”

He wept.  That is all, and that is enough.

It is  possible that St. Peter’s defection was not unrelated to his sudden attack on the Chief Priests’s servant.  He had cut off Malchus’s ear, and escaped into darkness.  Only one person appeared to have guessed his identity, a servant of the High Priest and a kinsman of the luckless Malchus.  He certainly had his suspicions.  ‘Did not I see thee in the garden with him?”  It was this question, according to St. John, which provoked Peter’s second denial.  If this be so, it is easy to understand St. Peter’s failure of nerve.  An homicidal attack on the servant of the Chief Priest was an offence which was probably punishable by death.  St. Peter could hardly be expected to hand himself over to the officers of justice by confession.  This much might be urged in St. Peter’s defence, but not by St. Peter.

The old Apostle dictates the story to St. Mark, and he neither defends nor reproaches himself.  Why should he?  Is it really necessary for him to insist that he should not have denied his master?  Would anything be gained by a pen picture or a psychological analysis of his subsequent remorse?

The fisherman who had followed Christ was not concerned with the impression which his story might produce on the reader.  He did not measure life by the verdict of men.  He was therefore not tempted either to explain his defection or to impress upon the reader the sincerity of his remorse.  He who had foreseen his weakness had also foreseen his strength.  He who had foretold the denial had also foretold the cross outside the walls of Rome on which the chief of the Apostles was to reaffirm his faith.

“Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkest whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.  This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God.”

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