He began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them,I don't know this man you're talking about.Mark 14:71
Mark is careful to point out the contrast between Jesus' speaking under oath in the inner courtroom and Peter's oath in the courtyard. Jesus said He was the Messiah, the Son of God, and Peter denied that he knew Jesus at all. That was a solemn and serious oath, and just then, Mark says,
the rooster crowed the second time. Peter's conscience smote him. He knew what he had done, and according to the account here, he broke down and wept. The word for
broke down is very strong in Greek. He literally went out and threw himself down on the ground in agony and tears of repentance, and remorse began to flow as he thought of what he had done.
I think we can see why Mark has so carefully weaved this story together for us. Nothing intrigues me more in this account in the gospels than to see the careful way the writers of Scripture choose incidents that belong together and put them side by side. Mark has done that here so that we might see the contrast. Here is a band of priests who hate Jesus. Their hearts are filled with venom and anger and jealousy and bitterness against Him. And all of it comes spilling out in the spitting and buffeting that follow the verdict. Contrasted to this is a man who loves Jesus with all his heart and is determined to defend Him to the end. And yet, in the moment of crisis, he fails Jesus. He denies that he even knows Him.
Why does Mark put these two situations side by side? He does it so that we might understand that both of them manifest the same thing; both show the undependability of human nature--the flesh, as the Bible calls it. These priests were men of the flesh, men who lived according to the ways of the world, men who were seeking for status and prestige and position. Jesus was a threat to their position and awakened their hatred and their anger, which they expressed in this terrible accusation and mockery and violence. That is the flesh at work. Everybody recognizes that hatred and anger and vehemence are wrong. But what Mark wants us to see is that the love of Peter was no better. It too was depending on the flesh, on human abilities and human resources, to carry him through. In the hour of crisis, it was no more effective than the hatred of the priests. Love and loyalty and faithfulness mean nothing when they rest on the shaky foundation of the determination of a human will.
The most hopeful note here is the tears of Peter. The priests didn't weep. But Peter, when he denied his Lord, threw himself down and wept. Failure is never the end of the story. Peter's tears speak of another day that is yet to come when the Lord will deliver him and restore him, having learned a sobering and salutary lesson.
Father, there will come times when I will be confronted with failure. I will find myself, like Peter, doing the very thing I didn't want to do, denying the Lord who bought me. Help me to understand that I must not count upon the power of the flesh to accomplish Your work.
When we are faced with the predictable failure of our human nature, do we settle for despair or futility? Where do we go from there?