And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.…
I. THE MAN. A man of great natural audacity and force; coarse, homely, rugged, stout, tenacious, powerful, of that class of men, not large, who break down old wails, and bring in new ages. And yet a man of variable impulses, and of changeful moods. Under strong excitement, he stood firm as a granite rock. Hence his surname, "Peter." But the quick heat might be quickly chilled. And then the granite crumbled. The rock became a sand-heap. His judgment could not always be trusted. His greatest strength was sometimes his greatest weakness. His large, warm heart over. mastered him. It was hard for him to be parted from his friends. It was hard for him to go against the wishes and opinions of his associates. Even those with whom he might be casually in contact, had undue power over him; not from lack of positive convictions of his own, but because his great, hungry heart craved sympathy and fellowship. He wanted men to think well of him, and feel kindly towards him. An over-weening love of approbation was his one great weakness. And so he lay, as such men always do, very much at the mercy of his companions and his circumstances.
II. THE SIN OF PETER. There was really no excuse for it. Its was in no personal danger. All he had to fear was a momentary contempt from servants and soldiers. Yet the paltry desire of standing well in the estimation of those who happened to be about him, menials as they were, caused him to prove false to his Lord. Miserable man! It makes us blush to think of him; so brave in meeting swords and clubs, so cowardly in meeting sneers.
III. HIS REPENTANCE. The reproving look of Christ, standing meek among His buffeters, and soon to start for Cavalry, was too much for the false and recreant disciple. "He wept bitterly," they tell us; and we may well believe it, for he was at heart a good, true, brave man, and when he came to himself he despised and abhorred himself for the momentary weakness which had allowed him so basely to deny his Lord... And so his character stands before us in proportions that do not appal and mock us as something quite miraculous and above our reach. While we stand in awe of him as an apostle, we are able to embrace him as a man, and walk on after him towards heaven. Nay, our interest in him is altogether peculiar. Majestic in his original endowments, we admire him. Inexcusable in his fall, we pity him. Elastic and fearless in his subsequent career, we accept it as a full and glorious atonement for every slip and every error of his life. If he was cowardly in the courtyard of Caiaphas, he made up for it by being a hero at his crucifixion, when he asked his tormentors to nail him to the cross with his feet turned upwards into heaven.
IV. THE PRACTICAL BEARING OF OUR SUBJECT is direct and obvious. It might not be quite right theologically, to thank God for Peter's sin. But since he did sin, we certainly ought to be very thankful for the record of it. Had Judas alone offended, afterwards perishing by his own hands, and sinking to his own place, Christians, once sinning, might well grow desperate. Had Peter stood, as John did, unshaken and unsullied, our hard struggle with manifold infirmities would be far harder than it is. But now we have a sinning Peter before us; an apostle grievously sinning, but grandly recovered. And while we blush to look upon him, there is comfort in the sight. Be encouraged, my feeble, imperfect, wavering brother, not indeed to sin, nor yet to think lightly of sin; but if you have sinned, to go and sin no more. Remorse belongs to Judas. Penitence to Peter. Penitence, and a better life.
(R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.