As promised on Sunday, a continuation of the Gospel from Palm Sunday
Chrysostom underlines the ‘strange and remarkable’ turn of events during the time after Jesus’ arrest where Peter moves from ardent promises and slicing off a servant’s ear to denying His master thrice before the cock crows twice. Origen, with his customary keen eye, points out the increasing vehemence of Peter’s denial – which marks his panic, and also his self-loathing at what he was doing; a reminder never to promise more than we can deliver – although, being fallen man, we often do just that.
Eusebius reminds us that Mark was ‘Peter’s interpreter’ and therefore we are getting, here, as close to Peter’s account of events as we can. He notes the honesty of the account. It must have been tempting to have quietly forgotten such moments of shame, and unless the Evangelists had recorded them, then they would have been forgotten. We see here, a testimony to the reliability of the Gospel accounts; they do not spare the founders of the Church nor even the Prince of the Apostles. They candidly report his betrayal by one of his inner circle explicit accusations by dubious witnesses, the insults and blows he received at the hands of his enemies, as well as the events of the crucifixion. These things no one would have invented, for they were, as Paul says, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles. Peter became the leader of the Apostles and a highly-respected figure and a martyr, and yet here, in the words of his closest follower, he is willing to convict himself of sin and bear the same; this is testimony a man can credit. Is there, anywhere, a record of the men who helped create a church recording themselves in such a way? It is a badge of honour to Peter and Mark that they were so unsparing in their depiction of Peter’s faults.
St Augustine reminds us that having denied Christ thrice, Peter would ask forgiveness thrice and be restored to favour – even as King David sinned and was forgiven, so it was with Blessed Peter.
St Gregory the Great wonders why it was that God permitted St Peter to be frightened by the voice of a maid and to deny Christ himself? It was ‘a great dispensation of the divine mercy, so that he who would be the shepherd of the Church might learn, through his fall, to have compassion on others.’