We have here the story of Peter’s denying Christ.
1. It began in keeping at a distance from him. Peter had followed afar off (Mark 14:54), and now was beneath in the palace, at the lower end of the hall. Those that are shy of Christ, are in a fair way to deny him, that are shy of attending on holy ordinances, shy of the communion of the faithful, and loth to be seen on the side of despised godliness.
2. It was occasioned by his associating with the high priest’s servants, and sitting among them. They that think it dangerous to be in company with Christ’s disciples, because thence they may be drawn in to suffer for him, will find it much more dangerous to be in company with his enemies, because there they may be drawn in to sin against him.
3. The temptation was, his being charged as a disciple of Christ; Thou also wert with Jesus of Nazareth, Mark 14:67. This is one of them (Mark 14:69), for thou art a Galilean, one may know that by thy speaking broad, Mark 14:70. It doth not appear that he was challenged upon it, or in danger of being prosecuted as a criminal for it, but only bantered upon it, and in danger of being ridiculed as a fool for it. While the chief priests were abusing the Master, the servants were abusing the disciples. Sometimes the cause of Christ seems to fall so much on the losing side, that every body has a stone to throw at it, and even the abjects gather themselves together against it. When Job was on the dunghill, he was had in derision of those that were the children of base men, Job 30:8. Yet, all things considered, the temptation could not be called formidable; it was only a maid that casually cast her eye upon him, and, for aught that appears, without design of giving him any trouble, said, Thou art one of them, to which he needed not to have made any reply, or might have said, “And if I be, I hope that is no treason.”
4. The sin was very great; he denied Christ before men, at a time when he ought to have confessed and owned him, and to have appeared in court a witness for him. Christ had often given notice to his disciples of his own sufferings; yet, when they came, they were to Peter as great a surprise and terror as if he had never heard of them before. He had often told them that they must suffer for him, must take up their cross, and follow him; and yet Peter is so terribly afraid of suffering, upon the very first alarm of it, that he will lie and swear, and do any thing, to avoid it. When Christ was admired and flocked after, he could readily own him; but now that he is deserted, and despised, and run down, he is ashamed of him, and will own no relation to him.
5. His repentance was very speedy. He repeated his denial thrice, and the third was worst of all, for then he cursed and swore, to confirm his denial; and that the third blow, which, one would think, should have stunned him, and knocked him down, startled him, and roused him up. Then the cock crew the second time, which put him in mind of his Master’s words, the warning he had given him, with that particular circumstance of the cock crowing twice; by recollecting that, he was made sensible of his sin and the aggravations of it; and when he thought thereon, he wept. Some observe that this evangelist, who wrote, as some have thought, by St. Peter’s direction, speaks as fully of Peter’s sin as any of them, but more briefly of his sorrow, which Peter, in modesty, would not have to be magnified, and because he thought he could never sorrow enough for great a sin. His repentance here is thus expressed, epibalon eklaie, where something must be supplied. He added to weep, so some; making it a Hebraism; he wept, and the more he thought of it, the more he wept; he continued weeping; he flung out, and wept; burst out into tears; threw himself down, and wept; he covered his face, and wept, so some; cast his garment about his head, that he might not be seen to weep; he cast his eyes upon his Master, who turned, and looked upon him; so Dr. Hammond supplies it, and it is a probable conjecture. Or, as we understand it, fixing his mind upon it, he wept. It is not a transient thought of that which is humbling, that will suffice, but we must dwell upon it. Or, what if this word should mean his laying a load upon himself, throwing a confusion into his own face? he did as the publican that smote his breast, in sorrow for sin; and this amounts to his weeping bitterly.