But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what you say. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.…
We speak of a sudden death; when the doctor had long been warning the man who has just died that he might die at any moment. We speak of a sudden bankruptcy; which, however, the commercial prophets had long secretly foretold. We speak of the sudden fall of a tree in a tempest; when, under a fair bark and a leafy shade, it had long been only a thing of powder. We speak of the sudden fall of a soul; when in that soul the causation of that fall had long been working out of sight.
I. THINK OF THIS DEED IN CONNECTION WITH A CERTAIN WEAKNESS IN WHICH IT BEGAN. That sin began, not in a sin, but in a weakness. The strength of a rope is to be measured, not according to what it is in its strongest, but in its weakest point. The strength of a ship is to be estimated, not according to her strongest, but her weakest part; let but the strain come on that, let that be broken, no matter how strong in any other part she may be, the mighty ship, being conquered there, will go down. So it is with the strength of a soul. Peter had many strong points, but one weak one; and that one, undetected by himself, was at the beginning of this disaster. It was the weakness of excessive constitutional impulsiveness. Impulse is beautiful and good; but impulse is only like steam in the works of a factory, or wind in the sails of a yacht. Impulse is a good servant of the soul, but a bad master. Impulse may act with as much emotional force in a wrong direction as in a right. Even when its direction is right, if left to itself, it is not safe. But for this weakness, a soul might often be saved just in time from the special kind of danger to which other weaknesses specially lead. There is a man who feels it a pain to contradict, and a pleasure to acquiesce; and when in the company of errorists, this weakness is his danger. There is a man whose weakness is an agonizing consciousness of ridicule. There is a man, a favourite with us all, whose simplicity we love, at whose heroics we smile, but whose weakness is that he is apt to think too highly of himself. Did any man with all these foibles but take the steadfast poise of principles, did he but take time, he might be saved from the action of them all.
II. THINK OF THIS ACT OF PETER IN CONNECTION WITH HIS ENTRANCE INTO THE TEMPTATION TO COMMIT SUCH AN ACT. "Enter not into temptation," said the Master; and within a few minutes from the time of that order the servant entered into it. He loved Christ far too deeply to deny Him; be had never denied Him yet, and was not likely to do so now. Ah! he had never yet been tried. You, perhaps, are a man of splendid morality, but you hardly know how much your integrity depends upon circumstances; you have never yet had it tried. There may be no accident before a train starts from the station; but let there be an undetected flaw only in one axle, and, when the locomotive is spinning along the line at the rate of forty miles an hour, there may be a great crash of property and life. Peter thought himself an iron man; but there was a flaw in his iron, though he knew it not until he had entered into a trial for which he was not fitted; then the iron broke!
III. THINK OF PETER'S DENIAL OF CHRIST IN CONNECTION WITH THE ACCOUNT OF ITS THREE OCCASIONS. God pity that youth who has just uttered his first lie! If eventually saved from the evil it has already set working, God alone can save him. No liar can alter the law of the lie, and that law is, that the first lie has a generative power, that one lie compels another, that one lie requires another to back it, that one lie spreads and ramifies into endless evolutions.
IV. THINK OF PETER'S DENIAL IN CONNECTION WITH THE TREATMENT THAT CHRIST WAS RECEIVING AT THE TIME. A seer tells us that he once saw heaven, and had a glimpse of the treatment Jesus receives there. This is his report: "I saw also the Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple." Now turn to this place on earth, and see how the Holy One is treated there. Do you not now see how the pictured memory of this episode came into the phrase of John the Divine, "the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ"?
V. THINK OF PETER'S DENIAL OF CHRIST IN CONNECTION WITH CHRIST'S ACT OF RESTORING LOVE. Simultaneously, the startled man turned to look at his Master, and his Master turned to look at him. We are awed before the calm sovereignty of that look, no less than by its loving kindness. "He spoke with His eye," says Erasmus. We may not imagine what the look was like, but we know what effect it had upon the disciple. The outgoing power of the Lord that went with it struck his heart, as once the prophet's rod struck the rock, and made the waters flew. It touched, and set flowing, frozen memories. With only self to lean upon, lower and lower would have been the inevitable fall; but just in time the Lord lifted him by a look! Some structures can only be saved by being ruined. They have in them such slack work and such bad materials, that it is of no use to patch them, or to shore them up; the only thing to be done is to pull them down altogether and build them again. Some lives can only be saved by a desperate operation. Some souls can be saved only through being for an instant hung, as by a hair, over the pit of the lost. A certain man was seen for many years rich, prosperous, influential in the State; that very. man was afterwards seen, down on his hands and knees, in the livery of degradation, scrubbing the floor of a convict prison. In his days of worldly honour he had made profession of the Christian faith, and not without sincerity; but egotism was suffered to master him. He fell. In the shock of that fall, in the recoil that comes of despair, he was "saved as by fire."
(Charles Stanford, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.