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late with him, and to assure him that he would soon explain to him the act which now appeared so strange. “What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." But Peter will not yield, nor listen, but answers, “ Thou shalt never wash
my feet.” To which Jesus replies, “ If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me.” That is,
will not receive this symbolical lesson of humility ; if you cannot cease your disputes about who shall be greatest in my kingdom; if you will not divest yourselves of
your notions of place and dignity, and become lowly, meek, and mutually kind, as my disciples ought to be, and must be, if they desire my approbation, then I must discard you from my service, and deprive you of my friendship.” Peter, subdued at the bare intimation of forfeiting his Master's esteem, and again driven beyond the just limits of duty by the sudden revulsion of his ungoverned feelings, cries out, “ Lord, not my feet only, but my hands and my head. Wash me all over, if it be thy will, only take not from me thy love." How perfectly natural is the whole of this scene; how consistent with the previous character of Peter ; how just to the character of his Lord !
And now the time draws near, when the first of the apostles is to be tried more severely, and to fall more sadly than ever. Soon after Jesus had washed his disciples' feet, he began to talk to them, in a most affecting strain, of his speedy death and his return to his father. Peter's feelings are again alarmed, and he declares that wherever his Master may go, he will follow him, and go.with him, even into prison and to death. “ Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet I will never be offended; I will lay down my life for thy sake." Jesus, better aware of his disciple's weakness, and knowing that it would not be equal to the approaching trial, mournfully answered, “ Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” And yet the ardent disciple spoke the more vehemently, and said, “ Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.”
Let us mark the result. After discoursing to his disciples, in those beautiful words which are to be found in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of the Gospel of John, Jesus went out with them, and coming to a place which was named Gethsemane, left them there, and taking with him Peter, James, and John, to watch with
him, withdrew apart to pray to his Father. When he returned to these favored three, he found them, not watching, but asleep. It was towards morning; and with frames oppressed with fatigue, and minds made heavy with sorrow, they had not been able to watch with their suffering and agonized Lord during his short absence, but had sunk down in a leaden slumber. More in pity than in wrath, the Saviour, addressing himself particularly to Peter, as the individual who had boasted the loudest, and had the most need of warning, said to him, “What! could ye not watch with me one hour ? After all your professions, can you not banish sleep, and prove your attachment by a vigil, for my sake, of one short hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is full of courage, but the flesh is weak.” Again and again he returns to them, and still finds them sleeping. Then comes the traitor Judas, with his band, and they are roused effectually; and Peter, who could not watch for his Master at his earnest request, undertakes, without his authority, to fight for him; and he drew his sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. So much easier is it to fight than to be dutiful; and so much the more readily could Peter obey the impulses of his
passions, than the behest of his Lord. Jesus calmly reproves the offender, and then all his disciples forsook him and fled.
There were two, however, who did not wholly forsake him; but still, though at a distance, followed him. One of these two was Peter; he sincerely loved his Master, and though just rebuked by him, he resolves not to lose sight of him, but follows him afar off, even into the court of the high priest's house. There, trembling, anxious, and vibrating between fear and affection, he takes his seat with the servants at the fire. He does not remain there long unsuspected, but is charged with being one of the followers of Jesus. His fear preponderates; his bold resolution, so lately formed, gives way; he denies all knowledge of his Master. Yes, Simon Peter, the leader of the twelve, the rock of the church, the confidant of Jesus, who walked on the sea, who held the spiritual keys, who saw the dead raised up, who witnessed the glorious transfiguration, who declared himself but just now ready to be bound, and led to death for his Master, now sits among menials, denying him to menials! with the mingled flush of dread and shame upon his cheek, denying to a set of scoffing hirelings of a corrupt palace, that he ever knew that kind and trusting
Master, whom he had so lately acknowledged to be the princely Messiah, the Son of the King of Heaven! By and by, and from another quarter, he is again attacked with the same charge; “ Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.” Having committed himself once, and not having recovered from his confusion and fear; detected, and yet obstinate; struggling between contrition and wrath, a deep sense of humiliation, and a strong dread of exposure, he again “ denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.”
There are some apparent discrepances in the several accounts given by the evangelists of Peter's denial of his Master. But they are only apparent; and indeed the veracity of the sacred writers is rather confirmed by these slight differences, which ought to be expected in separate narratives of what must necessarily have been a confused and hurried scene. John, for instance, says that Peter stood with the officers at the fire, and Matthew and Mark say that he sat. Doubtless he sat at one time and stood at another, in the agitation he was in, and therefore both relations are not only true, but more strikingly authentic from their very appearance of discrepancy. Again, there is a difference with regard to the persons