UNDISCOVERED GENIUS

A commentary on the history, contexts, and meanings of the word "genius."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

18 The Denials of Peter

18 The Denials of Peter‬

Call to Worship:
Matthew 18:13-27:
“Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.” ... As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.”
Many times, in the past few decades of my life, people have flaunted in my face, this popular cliche: “it's never too late”. As I have gotten older, I have found this to be less and less true: I have found that many, many chances in life have simply come “too late”. As much the Pollyannas of this world would like it NOT to be so, there comes a point, in every arena of human activity, when it is just too late.

It is a crushing moment indeed, to discover that it is too late: too late to retrieve a career, too late to retrieve a marriage, too late to retrieve a professional opportunity, too late to retrieve a bonding moment with a child, too late to cultivate certain potential abilities. If, as I have suggested many times, there are, indeed, discrete levels of consciousness spread out on an infinite vertical continuum, it is not difficult to imagine a threshold that separates the "not too late" from the "too late". In fact, I used to know a guy in Los Angeles who was fond of talking about damnation--about how you would know you were damned at the precise moment it was too late to do anything about it; that there is, in spite of our perception of the universe as a network of infinitely undulating gradations, some articulate, ultimate point of no return.  I have had many such moments of "it's too late" realizations. There are many, many things that can progress to a point of “too late”, and we’re just kidding ourselves if we think otherwise.

Thus, as the cock crew, and Peter stood confronting his own guilt, his own failure to live up to his vocal convictions, the despair of “too late” must have pierced his heart. To profess a love so profound that you would die for it, that you would do anything for it, and then to find that the slightest pressure of danger was enough to deflate your empty promises, reducing them to ashes, must have been a deeply humiliating and bitterly disappointing moment for Peter.

The word "humiliating" is a central concept in this sermon. Humiliating in the sense of: “to make humble”. We're not going to deal so much with the human frailty and weakness that led to Peter's denials, but we must look deeply at the humiliation which followed the moment when it was too late. We must consider what was too late, and what wasn't.

In a timeless spiritual universe what must it mean to be “too late”? Well, I don't know about the spiritual world, but, in THIS world, Jesus set a deadline for Peter. "When the cock crows you will have denied me three times", He says. The cock crowing is the deadline. With earthly life we have many such deadlines, the final one being death. Death pretty much punctuates our earthly career with a definite finality. If we have not made good on our promises to remain faithful, if we have not found our spiritual identity by the time of our death, I would say we're in fairly serious trouble. The shadow of death pursues us our whole lives, because, at any moment, it can confront us with the moment of “too late”; getting prepared for that moment should be the primary focus of our earthly life’s activities, because the moment of “too late” or “not too late” is created in every moment of the here and now.

The Hindus place great stock in this idea: that wher your mind is, at the instant of death, determines your future reincarnation; they believe that only by constantly thinking positive spiritual thoughts, only by constantly viewing God in the third eye, can they possibly be prepared for the moment of death, when the panic, the fear, and the disorientation, of the great transition, may distract them and shift their attention from the preoccupations of righteousness, to those of groveling, faithless sin. Thus, does Jesus instruct us to “pray unceasingly”; for our days of reprieve on this earth may be snatched away in an instant, without warning or mercy. The deadline of death is the test of our faith just as the deadline of the cock crowing was the deadline for the test of Peter's faith.

Hold that thought.

Now, let's talk about grace. We all know that, if we are late turning in a library book, they sometimes extend to us a "grace" period. We know that if we haven't got our income tax forms together on time, we can file for an extension. Indeed, there are many earthly situations in which a deadline is extended, because the authority knows that human frailty can cause people to miss their deadlines. Thus, in a certain way, grace can be thought of as the cavalry coming to the rescue of a faithless person who had always intended to get it together, but who kept putting it off until it reached the moment of “too late”. Does grace erase the deadline? Does grace make “too late” “not too late”? Does Jesus’ ransom not only pay the debt of original sin, but also the sin of “too late”?

I'm reminded of the scenario in C.S. Lewis' Perelandra where our hero, Dr. Ransom is told that if he is unwilling to resist the Satanic menace with his own body, God will have to offer an even more terrible sacrifice than the sacrifice of Jesus' blood on the cross. The point being that God is willing to take a moment that is "too late", and through His surpassing love transform it into a moment of "not too late".

It is worth considering. Let us look deeper into the comments about Peter with these ideas in mind.



From Wikipedia:
Denial of Peter
“All four Canonical Gospels state that during Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples, he predicted that Peter would deny knowledge of him, stating that Peter would disown him before the rooster crowed the next morning. Following the arrest of Jesus Peter denied knowing him thrice, but after the third denial, heard the rooster crow and recalled the prediction as Jesus turned to look at him. Peter then began to cry bitterly. This final incident is known as the Repentance of Peter. Both the denial and repentance incidents have been the subject of major works of art for centuries.

According to the Gospel of Matthew:
"Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same."
Later that night, Jesus was arrested. The first denial to a servant girl in Luke 22:54-57 is as follows:
"Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest's house. Peter followed at a distance and when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, "This man was with him." But he denied it. "Woman, I don't know him," he said."

The second denial to the same girl in Mark 14:69-70 is:
"When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, "This fellow is one of them." Again he denied it."
The third denial, to a number of people, is emphatic as he curses according to Matthew 26:73-75:
"After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly."
The Gospel of Luke 22:59-62 describes the moment of the last denial as follows:
"About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean." Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly."
Peter was one of the twelve disciples most closely associated with Jesus. His denials are made in the face of accusation that he was "with Jesus", the term indicating the bond of discipleship. The Gospel of Matthew states that Peter denied Jesus "in front of everyone", thus making a public witness. Throughout his Gospel, Matthew stresses the importance of public witness as an essential element of discipleship, stating in Matthew 10:32-33:
"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."
Peter's denial is in direct conflict with the nature of discipleship, as described by Matthew. 
The New Testament descriptions of Peter's denial depict the drama of the incident. Peter's antagonists in the discussion of his discipleship progress from a maid, to a maid plus a bystander, to a whole crowd. His denial progresses from a plea of ignorance, to a denial plus an oath and then to cursing and swearing with a total denial that he ever knew Jesus. The sound of the rooster then brings a shock to Peter that Jesus had predicted the three denials. 
This episode has been seen as an incident that sheds light on the unique role of Peter and sets him apart from the other disciples, just as in the Gospel of Mark 16:7 in which the angel tells the women to "go and tell his disciples and Peter" about the resurrection of Jesus. In this episode, as often elsewhere in the Gospel of Mark, Peter acts as the focus of the apostles, and an essential Christological image is presented: the denials of Peter contrast with the frank confessions of Jesus in his trial by the Sanhedrin, portraying his faithfulness as prophet, Son and Messiah. 
Referring to the tears shed by Peter during his repentance in the context of the Sacrament of Penance, Saint Ambrose said "in the Church, there are water and tears: the water of Baptism and the tears of repentance". Traditionally, "tears of repentance", as exemplified by Peter, have become a symbol both of mourning and comfort: a sign at once of sins repented and forgiveness sought. 
In art
The episode has been the subject of works of art for centuries. The subject was sometimes included in cycles of the Life of Christ or the Passion, often as the only scene not to include the figure of Christ.
This medieval mosaic, from the Basilica of Sant'Appollinaire, highlights the moment of "too late" by featuring the rooster:



Caravaggio's Denial of Saint Peter, is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Author George Weatherhead admires Caravaggio's depiction, the way Peter exhibits a wavering trepidation in his unsteady features, conscious of the unworthy falsehood he was telling. His lips quiver and his eyes seek, yet can not find the firmness of truth. In this painting Caravaggio portrayed the servant girl using the same head of the woman that he used in his depiction of The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist.
         

In Rembrandt's depiction, now in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, he presents the servant girl who recognizes Peter with a candle, illuminating Peter's face. Two soldiers look with suspicion as Peter speaks, while Jesus is shown in the distance, his hands bound behind him, turning to look at Peter. Peter's faces away from Jesus, and he gestures with his left hand, although his expression is free of defiance.
          


The following is tank from Catholic Apologetics with Edge:
Monday, June 4, 2007 Why did St. Peter Deny Jesus?

"One of the most misunderstood incidents in the New Testament is the denial of Jesus by St. Peter on the night of his arrest. Many commentators see this as an act of cowardice on St. Peter's part where St. Peter denies Christ in order to save himself from arrest.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The denials were for a very different reason.

Let us study exactly what happened.

St. Peter like the other Apostles believed Jesus to be the Davidic Messiah-King who would free Israel from pagan bondage. He expected Jesus to lead the Jews to victory over the hated Roman occupation.

When Jesus told St. Peter that it would be necessary for Him to suffer and die, the conversation went like this:

Matt 16:21-25:
"From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you."
"But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."
Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. "

At the Last Supper, Jesus and St. Peter had their last conversation before Jesus' death. Jesus prophesied that:

Matt 26:31 ...
"You will all be scandalized because of me this night; for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.'"

But St. Peter would have none of it:

Matt 26: 33
"Peter answered and said unto him, Though all [men] shall be scandalized because of thee, [yet] will I never be scandalized."

{The Greek verb that I translate as "scandalized" is skandaliz┼Ź which has the meaning "to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey".}

Jesus responded:

Matt 26:34-35:
"Jesus said to him, "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times."
Peter said to him, "Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you." And so said all the disciples."

After the Last Supper, Jesus and some of his disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Luke 22:38 makes it clear that the disciples had two swords with them. When the cordon of Temple Guards -- at least a dozen armed soldiers -- came to arrest Jesus, only one of the disciples raised a sword in his defense: St. Peter (John 18:10). The disciple with the other sword ran away. St. Peter alone took up arms against a group of professional soldiers in Our Lord's defense. It was only when Jesus told him to put the sword down that St. Peter withdrew (Matt 26:52). These were hardly the acts of a coward who feared for his personal safety.

Nor do his actions afterwards show cowardice. While the rest of the disciples hid in fear, St. Peter and St. John followed the mob as they took Jesus to the High Priest's House (John 16:15ff). Why had St. Peter come? Did he intend to testify on Jesus' behalf. No! He kept his identity secret. Was he afraid of being captured. NO! For if he were he would hardly follow Jesus all the way into the house. It was a risk that he had to take.

The only logical explanation for his actions was that he was there waiting for an opportunity to set Jesus free by stealth or force. He believed Jesus to be the true King of Israel and St. Peter was prepared to fight to free Him so that He could overthrow the Romans and their puppet Tetrarchs."

[Sidebar: This author makes an interesting point: He says that Peter must not have been afraid of being captured by the Romans, because in the garden of Gethsemane he was the only disciple who stood up for Jesus--he smote off the ear of one of the 12 or 15 guards who had come to collect Jesus; it is thought that one, who acts thus, cannot have been afraid. Therefore, his denial of Jesus was not out of fear, it was out of stealth, it was that he was lying in wait for an opportunity, like James Bond, to free Jesus from the Romans.

Martin Luther makes the same point:

“And his actions, indeed, show this to have been his intention. For in the hour of greatest peril, when the Jews were taking captive the Lord in the garden, Peter was the first to draw his sword, and he slashed into the mob, notwithstanding that he and only one other armed person opposed so many who were well equipped. Now who would have believed that one so valiant, who so faithfully stands, by his Master, would so soon afterwards shamefully betray Him?”

We can imagine Peter, concealing his sword under his cloak, trying to sneak up behind the guards to free Jesus, and being held back by a crowd of people who keep saying that he's one of the disciples--first one, then another. As Jesus slips further and further away Peter curses in frustration to get them to leave him alone, so he can get to Jesus. Imagine his fallen face as Jesus is carried away inside the house ultimately beyond his reach--too late. Remember the look on Jesus' face in the Rembrandt painting.

Back to Catholic Apologetics with Edge:]
 
"Matt 26:75:
"And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly."

Why did he then go out and abandon his plans? Why did he weep? Was it because of fear. No.

St. Peter realized that Jesus had warned him that He was not the conquering Messiah, Son of David, but the suffering Messiah, Son of Joseph, from Jewish legend who would suffer and die for his people as it said in Isaiah 53. St. Peter was clinging to his messianic dream of monarchy and glory but this was not to be fulfilled at that time.

His dilemma reminds me of a famous news quotation from the Vietnam War. During the Vietnamization program, the people of the village of Ben Tre were re-located to a government settlement and their village was burned to the ground. A newsman who witnessed this asked what was happening and an American Major responded:

"It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."

This is what happened to St. Peter. It became necessary for him to deny his Lord in order to save him. St. Peter realized the contradiction in that. If he really believed in Jesus, he had to let Him suffer and die. The only way that St. Peter could have interfered was if he did not believe all the things that Jesus had told him."

I don't think this scenario is completely without its problems, because Peter wept, and we don't necessarily know why. Just as when Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus, we can suggest many possible reasons for these tears. The generally accepted explanation is that Peter wept tears of humiliation and shame after denying Jesus. Catholic Apologetics thinks otherwise--that they were tears of realization that Jesus was not the conquering hero but the suffering Messiah. But perhaps they were merely tears of grief at having missed his slim chance to free Jesus from His captors. Perhaps he wept for joy because he thought it was so cool that Jesus could see into the future, that Jesus could not only predict the crowing of a cock, but that He could predict His own capture and conviction.

The bottom line is that Peter’s three denials of Jesus did not lead to the liberation of Jesus, and they did not lead to honor for Peter as a hero who would die at his master's side. It is a complex situation with many paradoxical arguments of pro and con. Perhaps the bravery displayed in the dark of the garden was dispelled by the firelight outside the walls of the Jews; perhaps Peter’s courage failed him with the ongoing night, the tiredness, and the increasing size of the mob surrounding Jesus, bringing with it the impending, sobering, crystallizing possibility of capture and crucifixion. Nevertheless, we can see in all these scenarios, that it was a moment of severe conflict for Peter, and that he was definitely backed up against a wall on which “too late” was graffittied in bright red paint.

It is not a trivial point that the rock Jesus chose, on which to build his church, was the same man who exhibited extreme human frailty at a crucial moment. The humiliation the Peter must've felt brought him to the lowest possible point of his emotional life not the say his spiritual life. It is thought that this low point represents the birthplace of the true humility that was necessary to steadfastly lead the newborn band of Christians into the future.

It is not unlike the parable of the lost sheep. Remember, the lost sheep is the one who screws around the most, who cavorts up by the outer edge of the herd, and finally gets left behind. It is the lost sheep whose antic misbehavior causes such tremendous turmoil and difficulty for the Shepherd, who must leave all the 99 behind to search for that one sheep. Peter is certainly such a lost sheep because he has strayed from the fold, has cursed his master, has betrayed the trust not only of Jesus but of the rest of the 12, possibly for the mere sake of protecting his own body from Roman abuse; and yet he is the rock upon whom Jesus intends to build his church. Thus, as in the moral of the lost sheep parable: the lost sheep is the one who is worth risking all to save, because he is the one who has the qualities which are outside the conventional mold of the herd. Therefore

The following section from the article Inconsistent Christians develops this point:

"Peter is without doubt the most prominent apostle, as well as the most perplexing. Jesus clearly gives him extra attention and a leadership role, changing his name from Cephas, “the pebble,” to Peter, “the Rock.” The Catholic Church regards Peter as the Prince of the Apostles, the first Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ on earth and even though the name would not have been used at that time, the first pope. He is regarded as a saint, as are all the apostles. But there is only one Basilica at the Vatican, and it is St. Peter’s. Peter is the only individual on whom Jesus ever pronounced a blessing, giving him his own private beatitude. “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah,”
Jesus says to Peter.

And then in that same incident Jesus gives him the “keys to the Kingdom.” In Catholic doctrine Peter is the one on whom the church would be built. When Jesus came to the disciples in the storm on the Sea of Galilee walking on water, it was Peter who
challenged him saying, “if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” When Jesus did, Peter stepped out of the boat and walked upon the water himself. And he was one of the inner three disciples, along with James and John, who accompanied Jesus to the Mount of Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane and at other private moments.

And yet, for all of that, for all of his moments of triumph, Peter had some of the most spectacular crash-and-burn failures. It is almost like there were two different Peters, as if he had an evil twin. He walked on water, yes, briefly. But then, when he looked around at the wind and waves, lost faith and sank and had to be rescued by Jesus. He can be forgiven for that. After all, it was his idea, and no one else in the boat even tried it. But there is that other incident, his most prominent failure, the one he is remembered for by nearly everyone. It happened on the night that Jesus was arrested when Peter, warming himself by the fire in the courtyard, three times denied knowing Jesus or being one of his followers, finally cursing and saying, “I do not know the man.” And Peter may be the only one to whom Jesus ever said, “Blessed are you,” but he is also the only one to whom Jesus ever said, “Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things.”

That’s pretty rough. Satan personified! The mouthpiece of the devil, the spokesperson for all that was antithetical to Christ and his mission. In Mark there is no elaboration of the temptation in the wilderness as there is in Matthew and Luke. But here Peter seems to be standing in for Satan, once again tempting him, testing him, suggesting that maybe he didn’t have to suffer after all. And Jesus reacted to that with anger. Poor Peter. Capable of great spiritual insight one moment, confessing that Jesus was the Messiah, and in the next moment becoming a mouthpiece for the Devil."

And again, from a sermon by Martin Luther:

"Who in the world would have expected such instability and feebleness in Peter! When the Lord, in Luke 22., cautioned him, saying, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,” how courageous was he not, how bold and undismayed! "Lord," said he, "I am ready to go with you, both into prison, and to death." And when the Lord continued to admonish him, telling him not to be so foolhardy, and that before the rooster would crow twice he should have denied Him thrice, we see that Peter thought it all a fable. He imagined this impossible, and intended to adhere to and defend the Lord at the risk of his own life. And his actions, indeed, show this to have been his intention. For in the hour of greatest peril, when the Jews were taking captive the Lord in the garden, Peter was the first to draw his sword, and he slashed into the mob, notwithstanding that he and only one other armed person opposed so many who were well equipped. Now who would have believed that one so valiant, who so faithfully stands, by his Master, would so soon afterwards shamefully betray Him?

In the garden no one attempted to hurt Peter and his fellow disciples, for the Lord's "Let these go" protected them. And especially here in the house of Caiaphas no one desires to injure them. But when, altogether incidentally, and perhaps through sympathy, the damsel that kept the door said to Peter: "Are you not also one of this man's disciples?" his courage failed him, and he feared that he would have to share his Master's fate if he should answer yes, and, therefore, he denies that he is a disciple. And when he was accosted on this point the second time and the third, he began to curse and to swear, calling upon God to visit upon him His wrath if he had ever known or seen the man.
Let us pay due attention to the conduct of Peter, so that we may learn properly to know ourselves and other people, and to beware of presumptuousness. For if such a denial of faith can proceed from Peter, who, above all the other disciples, had a heart filled with loyalty and love for the Lord Jesus, yea, who was so enlightened by the grace of God that even Christ said unto him: "Blessed are you, Simon, for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven," and that He gave to him the name Cephas, "a stone," how much more easily can not such denial come from us poor mortals, who are much inferior to Peter in point of gifts, and, in all other respects, much more faint and frail?

Be on thy guard, therefore; be not irreverently bold; think not that you have climbed the mountain and are out of danger; remember that your flesh is totally corrupt! Neither does Satan slumber, but walks about as a roaring lion, seeking whose heart he may trouble and whom he may cast down or even devour. Therefore, be vigilant; live in the fear of God; build upon His grace alone, and in Him repose your trust and confidence! And let that which Jesus spoke in the garden to Peter, James and John, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation," be spoken also unto you, that you may neither snore nor be falsely secure, as though there were no danger and no need for fear from here on out, but that you may watch and be sober, not doubting that your archenemy is close at hand, yea, that you bear him in your bosom! You would, therefore, be lost, should God not stand by you with His Holy Spirit. You can neither govern nor restrain yourself one single hour. Therefore, say: I will pray God to give me His Holy Spirit, that He may rule and rightly lead me, and either ward off disturbance and temptation, or else graciously aid me and suffer me not to fall!"

This is the first point presented by our narrative. Under this head, however, appropriately comes the solemn admonition of the Lord, given in the 21st chapter of Luke: "“But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness;" for we are just as ill-bred as the brute, which, when well fed, shows its insolence. He who has plenty and to spare, readily forgets God and His Word, or else cares very little for them; and then, before he knows it, he is entangled in the devil's net. Therefore, if you would be out of danger, observe these three things: fear God, be watchful and sober, and pray without ceasing! For, although we must still feel temptation's thrusts, and sometimes fall because of weakness, God, through His Holy Spirit, will lift us up again, and not suffer us to remain victims of temptation.

In the second place, we find consolation in this narrative. Here we clearly see the fruit of our Lord Jesus' sufferings; and Peter's conduct plainly pictures to us not only the grace and mercy of God but also the way in which grace may be regained by us when lost in unrighteousness and sin. Terrible and heinous is the fall of Peter; as such he feels it most forcibly, and, therefore, he cannot longer bear to mingle with men, but steals away and weeps bitterly.

But here we find that the Lord not only foretold to him his fall, but afterwards also received him into favor without punishing him as his sin had deserved. For on Easter, before the Lord Jesus had shown Himself, the angel who was at the grave commanded the women to announce to His disciples, and to Peter especially, that the Lord had risen. And the Lord Himself, soon after He had appeared to Magdalene and the other women, appeared to Peter and comforted him. This all works together for our consolation, teaching us not to banish from our hearts confidence in God's grace, though we may have fallen, but, seeing how the Lord deals with Peter, to be assured that He has died on our account, and that His sufferings shall bring us consolation and assistance, although we are poor sinners. For if sinners are not to have the benefit of the sufferings of Christ, then He would have rejected His disciples, and particularly Peter, first of all, and nevermore have interested Himself for them, because they were all offended because of Him, fled from Him, and so shamefully denied Him. But the merciful Lord does not so; they are still His dear disciples, notwithstanding that they disgraced their calling. Let us mark this and apply it to our hearts for consolation; for thus will our gracious God also deal with us."

The following is from freelancetheology.com/2005/03/26/peters-denial/

"We may feel that Peter is the person we are most like, but it is our calling to follow Jesus and do the things that he did. So, it’s worth considering that this is an example of what we are often called to do. In the book The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, one of the characters called Lucy Pevensie experiences betrayal. Lucy is in the magical world of Narnia, on an island ruled by a magician. She goes into the magician’s house in search of a spell and she finds another one, which allows her to see what her friend in the real world is doing. She sees her friend on a railway carriage with two older girls from school and with a shock she realises that they are talking about her. One of the girls asks Lucy’s friend if she’ll be “hanging around with that annoying Pevensie kid this term” and Lucy’s friend says “No.” Lucy is distraught and really angry. She can’t wait to get back to the real world and accuse her friend of betraying her. It takes the divine lion Aslan to point out to Lucy that she was spying on her friend, which is also wrong, and that her friend only said those things because she felt intimidated by the two older girls. Lucy has to learn not only forgiveness, but a willingness to accept her friend despite everything that was said.

It would be easy for us to draw the conclusion that Jesus forgave Peter and everything was all right again and that’s how we should act towards people who let us down. But we have to go further. It’s not enough just to ‘forgive’; we also have to restore. That is difficult and frankly impossible if the other person shows no remorse. But where there is repentance, a genuine ‘sorry’, then if we are trying to emulate Jesus we have to allow that person back into our circle of trust. Sometimes we may feel that trusting someone who has let us down is a huge risk. By way of encouragement, risk-takers tend to lead more exciting lives, so don’t be put off by risk.

The flipside is that when we let someone down, we have to allow them to forgive us. Often we do this with God. We let God down and then feel that there is no way back, that we can never amount to anything, that we’re frauds leading double lives and that no one will listen to us talking about God because we’re such rubbish Christians. But if we are given the chance, and I think we are all given the chance, then we should always take another shot at it. There’s an old saying that if you learn from defeat, then you don’t really lose."
Thus, Peter's humiliation on the occasion of his denials was a defeat from whose very jaws he snatched a victory. The moment of "too late"became a moment of graceful forgiveness and renewal. In the world of men, Peter's defeat was indeed a failure to meet a deadline, but in the world of Spirit his defeat prepared the way for transcendence and liberation.

Let us pray: Jesus, if only we could claim the grace to so easily forgive all our sins as Peter did after his betrayal of You. It makes us think the bigger they are, the harder they fall--or, perhaps, the greater the sin the greater the forgiveness. It is a wonderful thought. Let us lose ourselves in this wonderment, and let us glory in the amazing grace that transforms "too late" into, "just in time".
Amen