The woman said to Peter, "You are not also one of this man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not."
He surprised himself with how quickly he answered. Was it fear? Was he lying just to avoid suffering?
When he first heard Jesus talk about his own suffering and death, he took him aside and rebuked him. But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
It had taken a while to get over that. Slowly he had come to understand what Jesus meant. The power of God is not like the power of man. Throughout all the history of Israel, was it not through human weakness that God's power was seen the most? Did not the prophet Isaiah say that the servant of God would be despised and rejected by others, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity?
By the time it came to Peter's last meal with Jesus, he was ready to say, "Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you." If the Lord himself had to suffer, then he would suffer with him. But Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times."
Three times. Was that a prediction, or a command? Peter couldn't tell the difference. Everything Jesus said would happen was happening, no matter how bizarre. Why did he now deny his master? Was it in fact out of loyalty to him? Was he trying to fulfill his words? Or were Peter's own words beyond his control? Had destiny caught up with him?
"You are not also one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it and said, "I am not."
An exact repeat of the first instance, only this time he was surrounded, whereas at first it had only been a single woman.
Perhaps he had really meant it this time. Why should he follow the one who had pushed him away? It was Jesus who had told him not to follow him. He had offered to lay down his life for him, and instead he had insisted, "Where I am going, you cannot come." Why did Jesus think that he must suffer alone? He had taught all along that all of his disciples should take up their cross and follow him. It had taken Peter so long to understand that teaching, and just at the moment when he could at least put it into practice, he was met with rejection.
One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, "Did I not see you in the garden with him?" Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.
Well, then, the prophecy is fulfilled, Peter thought. Have I not done my duty? Have I not done God's will? Have I not, indeed, done exactly what my master told me? I have been a faithful disciple by denying my master. I have followed him by falling away. What else would he have me do? Where he is going, I cannot come.
The Lord turned and looked at Peter.
And he went out and wept bitterly.