Good Saturday Morning!
Mark 14.54, 66-72
54Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.
66While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 68But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” 71But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” 72At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
In between these two passages, Mark has sandwiched the story of Jesus’ trial and torment. Peter follows to the high priest’s courtyard, but there he does his best to blend in with the servants and soldiers milling about. He is consumed with fear, lurking in the shadows, while Jesus is being tried before the Sanhedrin.
While he sits there, warming his hands at a charcoal fire, a servant girl comes along, and she stares at him, and says, “you were with the man from Nazareth.” Perhaps she had been one of the crowd when Jesus spoke in the temple and had seen Peter with him, or perhaps it was his country clothes in the city that gave him away. Whatever it was, she recognized that he had been a part of Jesus’ entourage. But Peter, who only hours earlier that same night had sworn that he would follow Jesus even to death, now denies even knowing him! He went out to another area, thinking she would forget about him, and the rooster crowed, but Peter did not notice. The servant girl saw him again; this time she did not speak to him, but to other bystanders, you can see her pointing, “this man is one of them”. “One of them” is an accusation, “them” is someone you did not want to be on that dark night! And Peter denied it again. But then it seemed his accent, or his clothing – something showed the bystanders that he was not native to Jerusalem, but was from Galilee, and they said “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” This time Peter does not simply deny, he curses, and he swears he does not know the man they are talking about. At that moment the rooster crows again – and then Peter remembers that Jesus had said that before the rooster crowed twice that very night he would deny him three times. And Peter broke down and wept bitterly.
Peter was disappointed with himself. How could he do such a thing? His words had been so brave, but his actions belied his words. He had not been brave; he had hidden in the darkness, and he had denied Jesus. The others had run away, true, but he had sworn and cursed and denied he had ever known him!
All the gospels tell the story of Peter’s denial. Only John gives the story of his forgiveness, as Jesus asks three times, “Do you love me?” But from this point forward we see a change in Peter; he is no longer impulsive, cocky, sure of himself. From here and through the book of Acts, we see Peter as a leader who is humble and devoted to Jesus and His Church. Peter had learned something there in that dark courtyard; he had learned from his own failure. God uses the bad as well as the good, our failures as well as our successes. All that we bring to God, and give to him, can be redeemed and used by God. That is redemption – and salvation.
At the church of Peter and the rooster (that is not the correct name, which is rooster in Latin), there is a window showing Jesus’ trial. And there is a sculpture showing Peter in the courtyard, denying Jesus to the servant girl. Note the rooster at the top of the column.