Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came to him, saying, You also were with Jesus of Galilee.…
Describe the scene - the arrangement of the palace, which admitted of Jesus in the judgment hall seeing what was passing in the court, the rooms being built round a court open to the sky. Describe also the three denials.
I. SINS ARISE FROM UNSUSPECTED QUALITIES IN US. Peter, the bold, venturesome, straightforward disciple, fell by cowardice and lying; as Moses the meek by anger, and Solomon the wise by folly. Often our most flagrant transgressions arise from parts of our character we have not suspected. We have thought ourselves truthful and honest, and we are betrayed into prevarication and double dealing. We thought ourselves staunch friends, and have fallen into selfish and inconsiderate actions. We considered ourselves cool, almost phlegmatic, but some mastering combination of circumstances arrived, and we spoke the word or wrote the letter which has broken our life past mending.
II. SIN MUST EXPRESS ITSELF IN ORDER TO ITS ERADICATION. These sins that so distress and perplex us disclose unthought of evils, and put us on our guard. Peter was to become a leader in the Church, but he would have misled the Church had he not had this self-confidence rooted out. His self-confidence is here allowed to betray him, to bring him to what is most fitted to destroy it, to shame and a sense of weakness.
III. CRITICAL CONDITION OF THE SINNER THUS BETRAYED. All depends on the course we adopt when we are thus betrayed into unexpected sin. All men are so betrayed at one time or other; the difference arises in the manner in which we deal with ourselves after such sin. As John Morley has said, with characteristic wisdom, "The deepest part of us shows in the manner of accepting consequences." Can we accept the situation; can we humbly own that since evil has appeared in our life it must first have been in ourselves? "I did not think I was capable of such wickedness; but now I see what I am." Can we thus go out with Peter and weep bitterly? Thus to face the truth is the beginning of all good. Without this we can come to no good. We must start here, with a clear acknowledgment of our actual character. To blind ourselves to our true character is not to alter it.
IV. DIFFICULTY OF THUS HUMBLING OURSELVES. We say to ourselves, "We have been deceived by circumstances" - "betrayed into sin." Peter would say, "Why did not Jesus look at me before I sinned, and so prevent it? Why had I no inkling of the enormity of the sin till it was committed. My reputation is now gone. May I not as well go back to my fishing and renounce all these perplexing spiritualities?" But Peter was man enough to reject these fancies. He saw that he was a sinner, and that he must not run away from his sin, but face it and defeat it.
V. PETER'S SPECIAL SIN WAS MORAL COWARDICE. A weakness rather than a sin, and yet it is probably as prolific of great crime as any of the more vigorous passions of our nature. The natures it is found in are often in other respects admirable - sensitive, sympathetic, intelligent, inoffensive, kindly. The circumstances it is displayed in: man in business finds his expenditure exceeding his income, but is unable to bear the shame of frankly knowing his position and curtailing his expenses, and so, to keep up appearances, is led into dishonest practices; or a minister, finding his faith diverging from the Creed he has subscribed, is yet unable to proclaim this change of opinion, because he cannot face the public astonishment, the severe denunciation of one party, and the equally distasteful because ignorant and canting sympathy of the other; or a parent cannot bear to lose the good will of his child, and refrains from punishing him as he ought; or the schoolboy, afraid to be thought soft and unmanly, stands by and sees cruelty, or lying, or wickedness perpetrated without a word of manly rebuke. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.