Mark 14:63
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.

And ye shall see the lion of Man.
I propose to inquire what the value of this oath is; what value we ought to attach to it as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah; and I suppose that this is to be determined on the same basis and grounds on which we determine the value of evidence in other cases. How is that?

1. By those extraneous circumstances which are corroborative or otherwise, of that which is testified to.(1) Jesus was the only being who ever appeared on this earth corresponding to the types of the ritualistic part of the Old Testament.(2) He was the only being who ever appeared, in whom the prophecies would be fulfilled in their double aspect. A King, a Conqueror, a Deliverer, a Great One; and yet suffering, despised, and rejected of men, etc. The Jews looked only at one aspect of these prophecies; and the half-truth misled them.(3) Our Lord's teaching was infinitely loftier than can be accounted for on any other supposition.(4) His miracles all pointed to Him as a Saviour; all of them beneficent, and all of them such, in their various characteristics, as to indicate His power over the forces of nature, over the spiritual world, and over the dead. All these things conspire to sustain the testimony which Jesus bore to Himself as the Christ, before the High Priest under oath.

2. The value of an oath may be affected by the circumstances in which it is given.(1) There was nothing, absolutely nothing, external to Himself, that could have originated in Christ the idea that He was the Messiah.

1. His home, an obscure and distant place,

2. His want of education,

3. His poverty,

4. His want of authority.How came He, then, with the idea that He was greater than Solomon, that He was Lord of the Sabbath; that He was the Light of the world; that He was the Deliverer that was to come — how came He by it? That a single individual, in these circumstances, should have had that idea, seems to me to indicate that He had a right to it.(2) Moreover, you will observe, when He took this oath, He stood wholly alone. What courage, then, must have been needed to maintain, in the face of death, that He was the Messiah.

3. The value of an oath, or of testimony given in such circumstances, is determined by the competency of the witness. Was the witness of sound mind, and had he the means of knowing that to which He testified? Need I ask this question regarding Jesus? Was He beside Himself? Was He carried away by fanaticism? Was there anything to awaken such fanaticism in that solitary man standing thus wholly alone, forsaken by His friends, with absolutely nothing to sustain Him in the very face of death but His own consciousness of the great fact that He was the Messiah? Nothing!

4. The moral character of the witness. And here again, need I say anything in regard to the moral character of Jesus? No sin was ever imputed to Him; He claimed to be without sin; in the Lord's Prayer He taught others to confess sin, but He never confessed sin Himself. The Bible claims this for Him: "Who was," says Peter, "without sin" — absolutely. And was such a person as that, with such a character as that one who would stand before the highest tribunal of His nation and, when adjured by the living God, perjure Himself? Taking these things together, it seems to me that no oath was ever uttered under circumstances to give it greater validity and greater significance, and that no oath can be thus uttered — never!

(Mark Hopkins, D. D.)

How was our Lord's testimony received? You will notice, here, the position which the High Priest assumed, and it is a position which very many men assume in regard to the evidence of Christianity. He asked the question, "Art thou the Christ?" Was he prepared to accept evidence? Let us see. Suppose our Lord had said "No"? Then He would have been an impostor, and would have been led off self-condemned. But now, when He said, "I am," was there the least tendency in the mind of the High Priest to accept the testimony? No; but instead of that, he condemned Him for blasphemy! It was as Christ had said in regard to that generation: "We have piped," etc. Whatever He might do, and whatever He might say, there was that determined position of opposition against Him, which precluded any evidence from having an effect. And that is the case with many men today: there is this position of opposition which precludes any fair consideration of evidence; and the oath of Christ to His Messiahship, which stands today such an oath as would convince any man of anything except that, does not weigh with them.

(Mark Hopkins, D. D.)

He who becomes a friend to the world's ways becomes an enemy to Christ's. When you begin to love them, you begin to dislike religion. When you begin to worship money you cease to worship God. When you begin to love the house of pleasure you begin to dislike the house of prayer. When you begin to love bad books you begin to lose your relish for the Bible. When you seek irreligious associates you draw off steadily from intercourse with the people of God. When the greedy lust of the world has eaten out a Christian conscience — when it has deadened the spiritual sense — when it has dry-rotted the whole heart — when it has banished Christ and possessed the soul's affection — then the man is ready to desert! Nay, he has deserted! What is any man worth to the Church, or to God, when his heart is the property of Satan? He may linger within the camp and even wear the uniform of a church member. But when the bugle calls to action he is not in the ranks! When a march of reform is ordered or a strife for God's law is waged, he is "missing."


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