Mark 14:54, 66-72
And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.
The seeming discrepancies of the accounts by the evangelists of Peter's threefold denial are explained on the ground of their independency of one another, and their making prominent various portions of a lengthened and complex series of actions. "Three denials are mentioned by all the evangelists, and three occasions are distinguished; but on some of these there was more than one speaker, and probably more than one answer." This circumstance was -
I. AN EVIDENCE OF THE POWER OF EVIL IN GOOD MEN. This is the great lesson of the sins of the saints. There ought to be continual watchfulness, and living and walking in the Spirit.
1. It is not well to expose one's self to temptation unless from the highest motives. Curiosity seems to have been the ruling principle in Peter's mind. He was following the highest good, but not as perceiving it to be so, or truly desiring it - a perilous state of things. There are many unworthy followings of Christ, which have the "greater condemnation." Duty and self-sacrifice will, on the other hand, carry men safely through the most terrible trials.
2. Low views of Christ's character and office tend to unworthy conduct. The whole spiritual state of Peter was such as to expose him to the perpetration of the worst actions, and this arose from prevalence of false conceptions of Christ's person and work. His attitude and occupation immediately beforehand ("afar off;" " warming himself") have been regarded by many as symbolical of his spiritual position with regard to his Master. Scepticism and mental confusion on religious subjects, if not corrected or neutralized by close fellowship with Christ, or loyalty to the highest truth one knows, have sad moral results. Peter was still clinging against hope to his idea of a worldly Messiah.
3. Evil words and actions, if once indulged in, are the more easily repeated and aggravated. He proceeds from an equivocation - "I neither know nor understand what thou sayest" - to a stronger and more direct negative, and then to oaths and profanities.
II. AN EVIDENCE OF THE NECESSITY AND POWER OF CHRIST'S ATONEMENT. Even good men like Peter, if left to themselves, will grievously err and sin. How are men in such a position to be recovered?
1. There must therefore be a saving principle outside, and independent of ourselves. It is by virtue of his completed sacrifice in spirit that Christ by a look recalls his fallen disciple, and thus shows:
2. The power of his Spirit to redeem. In connection with such a power over spirit and conscience the greatest sins may be made the turning-points of repentance. Memory was appealed to, and the outward signs predicted by the Savior served as a spiritual index or clock of conscience. The cockcrowing has also an element of hope in it; it marked the dawning of a new day of penitence and enlightenment. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.