Luke 22:55

Peter followed afar off.

1. In this we find something that was commendable. The impulsive and energetic Peter did not exhaust his zeal in that unfortunate sword-stroke of his; nor was it quenched by the rebuke of his Master. Though it was far from an ideal discipleship to "follow afar off," it was discipleship still. We do not read that the others did as much as that; they probably sought their own safety by complete retirement. Peter could not do that; his attachment to Christ did not allow him to disconnect himself any further than was involved in a distant following. But:

2. In this we find something that was incomplete. The disciple desired to be near enough to his Master to know what the end would be, but he wished to be far enough off to be secure from molestation. He took counsel of his fears, and was so far from the scene that he was showing no sympathy with his Friend, and was running no risk from his enemies. It is not at all unlikely that this timidity, from which he succeeded in partially and momentarily shaking himself, was the beginning and the explanation of his subsequent failure.

I. GENUINE DISCIPLESHIP. this is found in following Christ.

1. Owning his claim as Lord and Leader of the soul; owning it by a willing and entire submission of our will to his will, a consecration or our life to his service, a perfect readiness of heart to say, "Lord, I will follow thee."

2. Endeavouring to walk even as he walked - in reverence, in righteousness, in love.

3. Striving to live this Christian life not only after him, but unto him.

II. DISTANT DISCIPLESHIP. We follow "afar off" when we are:

1. Lacking in devotion, lie who is only found irregularly and infrequently with God, in the attitude of praise and prayer, and in the act of studying his holy will, must be at a great distance from that "beloved Son" who spent so much time with his Father, and found so much strength in his conscious presence and loving sympathy.

2. Wanting in purity, lie whose spirit is much entangled with the cares, absorbed in the pursuits and prizes, hungering and thirsting for the pleasures of this world, and certainly he whose soul is to any considerable degree affected and tainted by the lower temptations of the flesh, - is a long way behind the holy Savior; is far off from him who was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sin," from him "in whose mouth no guile was found."

3. Failing in generous and practical kindness. He who is only sparingly offering his resources, spiritual or material, to the cause of human comfort and elevation, who is drawing the line of his service at the point of self-sacrifice, and declines to go across it, - is surely a very distant follower of that gracious and generous Friend of man who suffered the very last and the very worst that he might redeem us from sin and restore us to truth, to holiness, to God. This distant discipleship is, in every aspect, to be deplored.

(1) It is unfaithfulness to ourselves. A departure from the position we took when we first "yielded ourselves unto God, as those alive from the dead."

(2) It is perilous to our own souls. That way failure lies; and failure here means utter and disastrous defeat; it means suffering and shame; it may even mean death.

(3) It is disappointing to our Divine Lord. He looks for a close following on our part; he wants us to be at his side, to be serving him with all our strength, to be like him in spirit and in character and in life. And when he sees us "afar off," he is grieved with us instead of rejoicing in us.

(1) Let those who have been abiding in him, and there-fore following him closely, be watchful and prayerful that they do not "drift away" and lag behind;

(2) and let those who have to reproach themselves as distant disciples draw near to their Lord in renewed penitence and devotedness of spirit. - C.

Peter followed afar off.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN FOLLOWING THE LORD AFAR OFF. Not giving the whole heart's affection to Him.


1. The fear of man.

2. The love of the world.


1. It is dishonourable to God to follow Him afar off.

2. It is ruinous to our peace to be undecided in religion.

3. To follow the Lord afar off is injurious to the general interests of religion.Allow me, in closing, to inquire —

1. Do you follow the Lord at all?

2. If you are following the Lord, how are you following Him? Is your heart in your professed subjection to Jesus Christ.? What motive influences your conduct?

(W. Mudge.)

I. THE MAN. A man of great natural audacity and force; coarse, homely, rugged, stout, tenacious, powerful, of that class of men, not large, who break down old wails, and bring in new ages. And yet a man of variable impulses, and of changeful moods. Under strong excitement, he stood firm as a granite rock. Hence his surname, "Peter." But the quick heat might be quickly chilled. And then the granite crumbled. The rock became a sand-heap. His judgment could not always be trusted. His greatest strength was sometimes his greatest weakness. His large, warm heart over. mastered him. It was hard for him to be parted from his friends. It was hard for him to go against the wishes and opinions of his associates. Even those with whom he might be casually in contact, had undue power over him; not from lack of positive convictions of his own, but because his great, hungry heart craved sympathy and fellowship. He wanted men to think well of him, and feel kindly towards him. An over-weening love of approbation was his one great weakness. And so he lay, as such men always do, very much at the mercy of his companions and his circumstances.

II. THE SIN OF PETER. There was really no excuse for it. Its was in no personal danger. All he had to fear was a momentary contempt from servants and soldiers. Yet the paltry desire of standing well in the estimation of those who happened to be about him, menials as they were, caused him to prove false to his Lord. Miserable man! It makes us blush to think of him; so brave in meeting swords and clubs, so cowardly in meeting sneers.

III. HIS REPENTANCE. The reproving look of Christ, standing meek among His buffeters, and soon to start for Cavalry, was too much for the false and recreant disciple. "He wept bitterly," they tell us; and we may well believe it, for he was at heart a good, true, brave man, and when he came to himself he despised and abhorred himself for the momentary weakness which had allowed him so basely to deny his Lord... And so his character stands before us in proportions that do not appal and mock us as something quite miraculous and above our reach. While we stand in awe of him as an apostle, we are able to embrace him as a man, and walk on after him towards heaven. Nay, our interest in him is altogether peculiar. Majestic in his original endowments, we admire him. Inexcusable in his fall, we pity him. Elastic and fearless in his subsequent career, we accept it as a full and glorious atonement for every slip and every error of his life. If he was cowardly in the courtyard of Caiaphas, he made up for it by being a hero at his crucifixion, when he asked his tormentors to nail him to the cross with his feet turned upwards into heaven.

IV. THE PRACTICAL BEARING OF OUR SUBJECT is direct and obvious. It might not be quite right theologically, to thank God for Peter's sin. But since he did sin, we certainly ought to be very thankful for the record of it. Had Judas alone offended, afterwards perishing by his own hands, and sinking to his own place, Christians, once sinning, might well grow desperate. Had Peter stood, as John did, unshaken and unsullied, our hard struggle with manifold infirmities would be far harder than it is. But now we have a sinning Peter before us; an apostle grievously sinning, but grandly recovered. And while we blush to look upon him, there is comfort in the sight. Be encouraged, my feeble, imperfect, wavering brother, not indeed to sin, nor yet to think lightly of sin; but if you have sinned, to go and sin no more. Remorse belongs to Judas. Penitence to Peter. Penitence, and a better life.

(R. D. Hitchcock, D. D.)

The Lord turned and looked up in Peter
I. A grievous sin.

1. Its elements.





2. Its aggravations.

(1)His close connection with Christ.

(2)His recent special privileges.

(3)The repeated warnings given him.

(4)His strong professions of devotion

(5)The urgent demands of the time and place.

3. Its instigations.

(1)The failure was surprisingly sudden;

(2)of brief duration;

(3)never repeated.

4. Its chief causes.


(2)Blindness to near danger.

(3)Neglect of precautions.

(4)The fear of derision.


1. How was it brought about?

(1)By a predicted coincidence (ver. 60).

(2)By the Saviour's penetrating glance (ver. 61).

(3)By the action of memory.

2. What proof have we of its genuineness?

(1)His contrite sorrow.

(2)His amended life.Learn:

1. The weakness of the strongest.

2. The sufficiency of Christ's grace.

(M. Braithwaite.)

First we learn the possibility of perfect repentance after grace has been forfeited; of a return to God from sin committed after special favours and gifts of love. Further, there was a wonderful mercy overruling St. Peter's fall, bringing out of it even greater good. It was made to teach him what otherwise he seemed unable to learn. He needed to learn distrust of self. And thou who despondest at some past fall, hast thou no similar lesson to learn of deeper humility, of closer dependence on God? Hast thou had no self-trust? Has thy strength always been in prayer and watching? And the key-note of his Epistles is — "Be clothed with humility." "Be sober, and watch unto prayer." May not this be thy case — that the foundations of thy life need to be laid lower, in a more perfect self-abasement; a deeper humility: a more entire leaning upon God, a more complete abandonment of all high thoughts, independence of will, self. glorying, vanity, spirit of contradiction, and such-like; that beginning afresh, these hindrances being removed, thou mayest hide thyself from thyself, hide thyself in a perpetual recollection of the Divine presence and support, as the only stay and safeguard of thy frail, ever-falling humanity? Moreover, St. Peter is not merely the assurance to us of the possibility of a perfect restoration after falling from God, he is also the model of all true penitents. The first main element of St. Peter's recovery was a spirit of self-accusation, a ready acknowledgment of sin and error. Here, then, is one essential element of true repentance — self-accusation at the feet of Jesus. And how needful a lesson to learn well. The saddest part of our sin is, that we are so slow to confess it. Sin ever gathers round it an array of self-defences. Subtleties and evasions, special pleadings, shrinkings from humiliation, lingerings of pride, all gather round the consciousness of sin, and rise up instantly to hinder the only remedy of guilt, the only hope of restoration. Again, from St. Peter we learn that faith is a main element of restoration, preserved to him through the intercession of his Lord — "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." Now faith is not the belief of any particular dogma, nor is it the same as a spirit of assurance, neither is it any peculiar feeling appropriating some special promise; but it is the bent, the aim of the whole soul. It is the prevailing direction of all the powers of man toward God; it is the apprehension of the inner man embracing, grasping the invisible; living in things which are unseen and eternal, and raising him out of the sphere of sight which lives in things that are temporal. Faith may lay hold of one particular promise at one time, of another at another. And thus he had learnt to regard sin in the light of another world — sin abstractedly in itself, as a loss of spiritual life, as a thing abhorrent to God, as an utter contrariety to all that his soul was aspiring after. To rise thus above all the worldly consequences of sin, all its mere temporal effects, to read one's sin in the light of God's countenance, to view it as we shall view it on our death-bed, stripped of all accidents, with its awful consequences, as we pass into eternity — this is the attribute of faith; and through the preservation of his faith, as our Lord assures us, St. Peter arose from his fall. Oh! how much need have we to pray, "Lord, increase our faith"; that we may see our sins in their true form and colour. The sense of sin depends on our view of sanctity. As we grow better, we see sin clearer. As we have more of God, we realize evil more vividly. The greatest saints are therefore the deepest penitents. The bright light of purity in which they live sets off more vividly the darkness of the spots which stain the field of their souls' life. The more they advance, the more truly they repent. As, e.g., we see more the power of truth, the more we are ashamed of our deceits. As we perceive love and largeness of heart, so we despise our selfishness. The more God shines into us, the more we loathe our own vileness. We judge by the contrast. There is one more feature of a true repentance which is exhibited in St. Peter. His repentance turned upon his love of the person of Christ. This had been long the moving principle of his life. His indignation at the idea of his Master's suffering: his refusing to be washed before the administration of the blessed Sacrament; his taking the sword, and then striking with it; his entering the judgment-hall — were all impulses of a fervent, though unchastened, love — a love to our Lord's person. And this was the secret power of that look which our Lord, when He turned, cast upon him. It may seem as though St. Peter's love to our Lord were too human, too much that of a man toward his fellow. It did indeed need chastening, increased reverence, more of that deep, adoring awe which St. John earlier learnt; and which St. Peter learnt at last in the shame and humiliations of his fall. But love to our Lord must needs be human — human in its purest, highest form. The Incarnation of God has made an essential change in the relations between God and man, and so in the love that binds us. He took our nature, and abideth in that nature. He is Man eternal, as He is God eternal. He loves, and will evermore love us, in that nature, and through its sensations, and He draws us to love Him through the same nature, with the impulse of which humanity is capable. He loved with a human love, and He is to be loved in return with a human love. He consecrated the human affections to Himself in His human form as their proper end, so that through His humanity they might centre upon the eternal Godhead. Love is of the very essence of repentance, and love is ever associated with a person, and the true movement of the deepening and enduring love of penitents circles around the Person of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. In conclusion, I would briefly point out two habits of devotion necessary to be cherished, in order that the grace of such a repentance as we have been contemplating may be the more worked in us. One is the habit of meditation on the Person of Jesus Christ. Again, love can be cherished only by habitual intercourse, or ever-renewed inward feeding on the beloved object. If there be no converse, or communion of thought, love must decline and die. And how can an invisible person become the object of love, except by inward contemplation? But it is not in the nature of the human heart to love another, unless that other become a constant companion, or unless his beauty and amiableness become strongly impressed on the soul, and be borne always in remembrance. The grace of God moves and operates according to the laws of humanity. Grace is above nature, but it is according to nature. It acts on nature, and raises nature up to the level of God, but is human still. What, then, would stir the heart to love according to nature, the same will stir the heart to love above nature. And what is this but the contemplation of the object, followed by an habitual feeding upon it? The second point is this: we must learn to measure the guilt of our sins by the sorrows of God in the flesh. We have no proper rule of our own by which to measure the guilt or sin. Sin has ruined this lower creation of God. Sin brought the flood and the fire of Sodom, and it has in its train disease, and famine, and war. It has created death, and made death eternal. All these are as certain rules and proportions by which we can form some estimate of the guilt of sin. But they are partial and imperfect measures, after all. The only true and adequate measure is the blood of God Incarnate and the sorrows of His sacred heart. Learn, then, to look at sin in this connection — not sin in the aggregate, but individual sins. Measure by this price the special besetting sin of thy nature. Weigh it in the scale against the weight of the sacrifice which bowed to the cross the Incarnate God.

(Canon T. T. Carter)

I. CONFIDENCE AND PRESUMPTION ARE VERY UNPROMISING SIGNS OF STEDFASTNESS AND PERSEVERANCE IN RELIGION. Trust in God is one thing, and trust in ourselves is another; and there is reason to think that they will differ as much in the success that attends them as they do in the powers upon which they are founded. It is in vain for you to promise yourselves a superiority under trials and temptations, unless you lay the right foundation, by imploring the aid and assistance of God's Holy Spirit, whose province only it is to confirm the faithful to the end.

II. From this example of St. Peter we may learn also WHAT LITTLE REASON THERE IS TO PROMISE OURSELVES SUCCESS AGAINST TEMPTATIONS WHICH ARE OF OUR OWN SEEKING. St. Peter had warning given him, and was told by One whose word he might have taken, that he was not able to undergo the trial, which he seemed so much to despise. But try he would, and learnt to know his own weakness in his miscarriage. God knows our strength better than we ourselves do; and therefore, when He has warned us to avoid the occasions of sin, and to fly from the presence of the enemy, it is presumption to think ourselves able to stand the attack, and our preparations to meet the danger must be vain and ineffectual. When we strive not lawfully, even victory is dis-honourable, and no success can justify disobedience to orders.

III. From the example of St. Peter we may learn now GREAT THE ADVANTAGES OF REGULAR AND HABITUAL HOLINESS ARE. Good Christians, though they may fall like other men through passion, or presumption, or other infirmities, yet the way to their repentance is more open and easy; their minds, not being hardened by sin, are awakened by the gentlest calls, and the sense of virtue revives upon the first motion and suggestions of conscience. St. Peter fell, and his fall was very shameful; but his repentance was as surprising and remarkable as his fall.

IV. You may observe that THE SINS OF THE BEST MEN ARE EXPIATED WITH THE GREATEST SENSE OF SORROW AND AFFLICTION. It is impossible to have a sense of religion, to think of God and ourselves as we ought to do, without being affected with the deepest sorrow for our offences. When men are truly concerned, they do not consider what they are to get by their tears, or what profit their sorrow will yield. The soul must vent its grief; and godly sorrow is as truly the natural expression of an inward pain as worldly sorrow, however they differ in their causes and objects.

(Bishop Sherlock.)


1. The sin itself. It was the denial of his Lord. He denied that he knew Jesus. He was ashamed to own his connection with Jesus. And he yielded to the impulse of his shame and base fear.

2. But, secondly, let us attend to the circumstances of Peter's sin. We cannot take the measure of it, or see it in a just light, till these are considered. The circumstances are of two sorts.(1) In the first place, there are the aggravating circumstances —(a) The first circumstance of an aggravating nature was the rank he held among the followers of Jesus. Peter was more than an ordinary disciple. He was one of the twelve. He was an apostle. Moreover, he was one of the three nearest to the Lord in intercourse and love.(b) The second circumstance of aggravation was, that Peter had been warned of his danger.(c) It was also an aggravating circumstance in the case, that Peter had made great professions. When we read the sad story of his threefold denial, we are disposed to exclaim, What can this mean? Is this the bold confessor who was the first to avow his faith in the Messiahship of Jesus?(d) Fourthly, Peter's sin took aa aggravation from the circumstance that it was committed in the presence of Jesus.(e) Peter denied his Lord at a time of love. He had just received the Holy Communion. And now the Passion of the Saviour was begun:(2) The extenuating circumstances in Peter's case. It is no less important to mark these, than to consider, as has been done, such as were of an aggravating nature.(a) First, then, it was an extenuating circumstance that he was surprised into the commission of his sin. The denial of his Lord was not deliberate.(b) Secondly, an important circumstance of extenuation was, that the sin was contrary to the tenor of Peter's life.(c) It should not be overlooked, that it seems to have been Peter's love for Christ that exposed him to the temptation by which he was overcome.(d) Fourthly, Peter was comparatively ignorant. Some allowance must be made, in the case of our apostle, for the prejudices which affected the universal Jewish mind. We must not judge him as if he had understood, as we do, or as he himself did afterwards, by what means it was that the peculiar work of Jesus, as the Messiah, was to be accomplished.(e) It is fit we should remember that the hour and the power of darkness were come.


1. Its origin.

(1)Christ's prayer was the procuring cause of it.

(2)The instrumental cause.

(a)Christ's look.

(b)Christ's word.(3) The influence of the Spirit of God was the efficient cause.

2. The signs, tokens, and manifestation of Peter's repentance.

(1)He went out. A change came over his feelings, and he could remain no longer in the society of the irreligious servants and officers.

(2)He deeply mourned for his sin.

(3)He sought the society of Christ's disciples.

(4)His love to the Lord revived.

3. The acceptance of Peter's repentance.

(1)A message sent through the holy women.

(2)Christ's interview with him alone.

(3)The more public interview in Galilee.

4. Peter's repentance thus graciously accepted, what were the issues of it? He was the boldest of the bold, from that time forward, in confessing Christ. There was less boasting than there had been before; but he never flinched again. There were no more denials.

(A. Gray.)


1. I see in that look, first, that which makes me exclaim — What thoughtful love! Jesus is bound, He is accused, He has just been smitten on the face, but His thought is of wandering Peter. He looked to others, but He never looked to Himself. I see, then, in our Lord's looking upon Peter, a wondrously thoughtful love.

2. I exclaim next, what a boundless condescension! He had acted most shamefully and cruelly, and yet the Master's eye sought him out in boundless pity!

3. But then, again, What tender wisdom do I see here! "The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." He knew best what to do; He did not speak to him, but looked upon him.

4. As I think of that look again, I am compelled to cry out, "What Divine power is here! This lock worked wonders. I sometimes preach with all my soul to Peter, and, alas! he likes my sermon and forgets it. I have known Peter read a good book full of most powerful pleading, and when he has read it through, he has shut it up and gone to sleep. I remember my Peter when he lost his wife, and one would have thought it would have touched him, and it did, with some natural feeling; yet he did not return to the Lord, whom he had forsaken, but continued in his backsliding. See, then, how our Lord can do with a look what we cannot do with a sermon, what the most powerful writer cannot do with hundreds of pages, and what affliction cannot do with even its heaviest stroke.

II. LET US LOOK INTO THE LOOK WHICH THE LORD GIVE TO PETER. Help us again, most gracious Spirit!

1. That look was, first of all, a marvellous refreshment to Peter's memory, "The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." He saw the Man whom he loved as he had never seen Him before. This was He who called him, when he was fishing, to become a fisher of men; this was He who bade him spread the net, and caused him to take an incredible quantity of fishes, insomuch that the boat began to sink, and he cried out, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord"; this was He who had made him walk on the water, and at other times had rebuked the winds, and raised the dead. This was He with whom Peter had been upon the Mount of Transfiguration!

2. Next, that turning of the Master was a special reminder of His warning words. Jesus did not say it in words, but He did more than say it by His look. "Ah, Peter! did not I tell you it would be so?"

3. Surely it was, also, a moving appeal to Peter's heart.

4. What do you think that look chiefly said? My thought about it, as I turned it over, was this: When the Lord looked upon Peter, though He did refresh his memory, and make an appeal to his conscience, yet there was still more evidently a glorious manifestation of love. If I may be permitted humbly and reverently to read what was written on my Master's face, I think it was this — "And yet I love thee, Peter, I love thee still! Thou hast denied Me, but I look upon thee still as Mine. I cannot give thee up."

5. Again, this look penetrated Peter's inmost heart. It is not every look that we receive that goes very deep.

6. One fact may not escape our notice: our Lord's look at Peter was a revival of all Peter's looking unto Jesus. The Lord's look upon Peter took effect because Peter was looking to the Lord. Do you catch it? If the Lord had turned and looked on Peter, and Peter's back had been turned on the Lord, that look would not have reached Peter, nor affected him. The eyes met to produce the desired result.

7. This look was altogether between the Lord and Peter. Nobody knew that the Lord looked on Peter, except Peter and his Lord. That grace which saves a soul is not a noisy thing; neither is it visible to any but the receiver.

III. Now I must go to my third point: LET US LOOK AT PETER AFTER THE LORD HAD LOOKED AT HIM. What is Peter doing?

1. When the Lord looked on Peter the first thing Peter did was to feel awakened. Peter's mind bad been sleeping.

2. The next effect was, it took away all Peter's foolhardiness from him. Peter had made his way into the high priest's hall, but now he made his way out of it.

3. The look of Christ severed Peter from the crowd. He was no longer among the fellows around the fire. He had not another word to say to them; he quitted their company in haste. It is well for believers to feel that they are not of the world. Oh, that the arrows of the great Lord would this morning pierce some soul even as a huntsman wounds a stag! Oh, that the wounded soul, like Peter, would seek solitude! The stag seeks the thicket to bleed and die alone; but the Lord will come in secret to the wounded heart, and draw out the arrow.

4. That look of Christ also opened the sluices of Peter's heart; he went out, and wept bitterly. There was gall in the tears he wept, for they were the washings of his hitter sorrow.

5. Yet I want you to notice that that look of Christ gave him relief. It is a good thing to be able to weep. Those who cannot weep are the people that suffer most. A pent-up sorrow is a terrible sorrow.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

When Sapores, King of Persia, raised a violent persecution against the Christians, Usthezanes, aa old nobleman, a courtier, that had served in Sapores' government in his minority, being a Christian, was so terrified that he left off his profession. But he, sitting at the court-gate when Simon, an aged holy bishop, was leading to prison, and rising up to salute him, the good bishop frowned upon him. and turned away his face with indignation, as being loth to look upon a man that had denied the faith: Usthezanes fell a weeping, went into his chamber, put off his courtly attire, and broke out into these words: "Ah, how shall I appear before the great God of heaven whom I have denied, when Simon, but a man, will not endure to look upon me; if he frown, how will God behold me when I come before his tribunal?" The thought of God's judgment-seat wrought so strongly upon him, that he recovered his spiritual strength, and died a glorious martyr.


Dr. Moody Stewart was once praising some preacher to Dr. Duncan, who said, "He's too unbroken for me; plenty of learning and talents, but too unbroken yet." You speak about being broken in business, do you know anything of being broken in heart? The man who has been broken himself will he tender to other broken men. There is a story told in the Early Church how, if the cock crowed when Peter was preaching and the echoes came into the Church, he could go no further. The sermon was cut short; but when he began again there would be an unction and tenderness in it which would satisfy the most broken sinner in the congregation.

(J. Whyte.)

Instead of giving His moral command as a mere abstract announcement addressed only to the ear, which would then be in danger of being forgotten, He linked His words with objects which appealed to the eye, and were fitted to call up, when the eye rested upon them, the moral ideas connected with them. Though driven out of Eden, God has pursued the same plan in educating and disciplining man out of the consequences of the fall, as He pursued in Eden to keep him from falling. He connected his whole moral history as closely as before with the objects around him. Everything with which he deals preaches to him. The thorns and thistles coming up in his cultivated fields remind him of the curse; and the difficulties and disabilities which he finds in earning his daily bread are proofs and punishments to him of his sin. As truly as God made the tree of life to be a sacrament, as it were, in the midst of Eden, to keep alive in Adam's heart perpetually the conditions of life; as truly as Jesus associated the moral lesson to Peter with the crowing of the cock, so truly does God still make nature one of the great powers by which dead consciences and sluggish memories are awakened. Our moral experiences and actions are thus as closely linked with the trees and flowers as they were in Paradise. In our progress through life we are continually impressing our own moral history upon the objects around us; and these objects possess the power of recalling it, and setting it before us in all its vividness, even after the lapse of many years. Our feelings and actions pass from ourselves and become a part of the constitution of nature, become subtle powers pervading the scenes in which we felt and performed them. They endow the inanimate earth itself with a kind of consciousness, a kind of moral testimony which may afterwards witness for or against us. We cannot live in any place, or go through any scene, without leaving traces of ourselves behind in it; without mixing up our own experiences with its features, taking its inanimate things into our confidence, unbosoming ourselves to them, colouring them with our own nature, and placing ourselves completely in their power. They keep a silent record of what we are and do in the associations connected with our thoughts and actions; and that record they unfold for us to read when at any time we come into contact with them. And hence the significance of God's own words, "He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people." There is a moral purpose, as I have said, in all this. It is not for the mere vivifying of our feelings of pleasure or pain that the objects of nature are endowed with this strange power of association. God meant it to perform a most important part in our moral training. He meant it to remind us of sins which we should otherwise have forgotten, and to awaken our consciences that would otherwise have slumbered. By associating our sinful thoughts and actions with outward objects, He designed that they should be brought and kept before us in all their reality in order to produce the proper impression upon us, instead of allowing them to sink into the vague, ghostly abstractions which past sins are apt to become in the mind. And not seldom has this silent power of witness-bearing, which lurks in the scenes and objects of nature, been felt by guilty men, bringing them to a sense of their guilt.

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

George MacDonald, in his story of "Robert Falconer," relates a well-authenticated incident of a notorious convict in one of our colonies having been led to reform his ways, through going one day into a church, where the matting along the aisle happened to be of the same pattern as that in the little English church where he worshipped with his mother when a boy. That old familiar matting vividly recalled the memories of childhood, "the mysteries of the kingdom of innocence," which had long been hid and overpowered by the sins and sufferings of later years. An unfortunate outcast, sunk in misery and vice, wandering in the streets of a large city, meets suddenly a child carrying a bunch of some common wild flowers — hawthorn, cowslips, or violets. A chord is touched which has long slumbered in the outcast's bosom. The innocent past comes back; the little child sitting on the fond mother's knee; the long, happy wanderings in the summer woods and hawthorn-shaded lanes; the cottage home, with all its old-fashioned ways and dear delights; all this sweeps over her like a blissful dream at the sight or smell of these humble wild flowers. Overpowered by the recollections of the past, and the awful contrast between what she was and might have been and what she is now, she turns away and weeps bitterly, perhaps to see at that moment the tender, reproachful eye of Him whom she has long denied, fixed upon her, and to hear His words of pity, "Go in peace, and sin no more." Two young men are spending their last evening together amid the rural scenes in which they have been bred. They are going up to the great city on the morrow to push their fortunes, and are talking over their plans. While they are conversing, one of those little Italian boys who penetrate to the remotest nooks with their hurdy-gurdies, comes up and plays several tunes, which attract their attention, and draw from them a few coins. The young men part. One prospers by industry and talent; the other gives himself up to dissipation, is sent adrift, and becomes a wreck. Worn out with debauchery, and in the last stage of disease, he sends for his former friend. They meet; and at that moment the sound of a hurdy-gurdy is heard in the street. It is the little Italian boy playing the same tunes which he played on that well-remembered evening when the friends bade farewell to the country. It wanted but this to fill up the cup of the dying man's shame and sorrow. All that he has hazarded for the pleasures of the city comes rushing upon his memory. He has lost his money, his health, his character, his peace of mind, and his hope of heaven; and he has gained in exchange sorrow, pain, privation, an insupportable weariness of life, and a dread of death. That sound of the Italian hurdy-gurdy comes to him like the crowing of the cock to Peter. It is the turning point of his life. It awakens within him "the late remorse of love"; and he dies in the peace of Divine pardon and acceptance. All these are not mere fancy pictures; they are true to life; they have often happened, and the number of them might be indefinitely increased. Such examples impress upon our minds the solemn truth that there is nothing really forgotten in this world.

(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)

1. Mark and admire the honesty and impartiality of the sacred historians. All four state this blot on Peter's character; and their combined account presents it fully and with many dreadful aggravations.

2. Let the example of Christ, in this case, teach us to pity and to seek to restore the fallen.

3. Let us consider Peter's denial of his Lord as a warning to us all. We may soon become very guilty, and be exposed to shame in an unguarded moment; and there is hardly any sin we may not be guilty of, if left to ourselves.

4. Let us be on our guard against the particular causes that led more immediately to Peter's fall.



(3)Fear of man.

(4)False shame.

(5)Bad company.

5. Let those who, like Peter, have fallen, imitate Peter in his repentance.

(James Foote, M. A.)


1. The repentance of Peter is ascribed, in the first instance, to a circumstance apparently unimportant. The crowing of a cock. How observant then ought we to be o! all which surrounds or befals us; and how anxious to obtain from it instruction in righteousness!

2. The text ascribes it also to the interposition of Christ. Without this, the warning voice of the cock would have been heard in vain.

3. But what followed the look which the compassionate Saviour directed towards His fallen apostle? It was a look of the mildest reproof and the tenderest pity, but the lightning's flash could not have done more. Piercing his heart, it produced there that serious reflection from which his contrition sprung.


1. His sorrow was of a softening nature. "He wept." It was not that horror of soul, which has its origin solely in fear, and leaves the heart as hard as it finds it. It was the sorrow which springs from love, and fill the breast with the tenderest emotions, while it disquiets and humbles it.

2. But the sorrow of Peter was acute, as well as softening. He not only wept, but he wept" bitterly." And bitterly does every sinner weep, who really bewails his transgressions.

3. The sorrow of Peter was, further, a secret sorrow; a grief which sought retirement. "He went out" when he wept. Not that he was now afraid to acknowledge Christ, or unwilling to condemn himself for the crime which he had committed; but like penitent Ephraim, "he was ashamed, yea, even confounded"; and he sought where to give vent to his sorrow unseen, and to implore undisturbed that mercy which he so greatly needed. And every real penitent is often "sitting alone." Flying from scenes of vanity which he once loved, and from society which his folly once enlivened, he retires to his closet, and there, when he has shut his door, he communes with his heart, prays to his offended Father, and weeps.


1. An increasing love for his Lord.

2. Greater zeal and boldness in the service of Christ.

(C. Bradley, M. A.)

I. THE LOOK OF JESUS. We cannot picture to ourselves the countenance he exhibited, or the point and pungency of the sentiment it conveyed; but I observe it was doubtless the look of offended dignity; it was the look of insulted friendship; it was the look of betrayed confidence; it was the look of keen and humiliating reproof, and such reproof the whole of Peter's conduct justly merited. I observe, further, that the look of Jesus was a look which conveyed conviction. And, once more, it was a look of compassion. What a conflict of feeling must have been produced by the emotions displayed on this deeply interesting occasion. Humbled by reproof, pursued by conviction, melted by love, what tongue can describe his grief, or what artist give a hue sufficiently deep to the manifestation of his contrition I These are the feelings — a knowledge of which must be acquired in the most impressive and affecting school in the world. These are feelings — a knowledge of which must be acquired on Mount Calvary. The man who has been brought to look on Him whom he has pierced has an idea more clear, a conception more strong of the feelings of Peter than the art of eloquence, or the line of the pencil can convey.


1. The recollection of previous obligation.

2. The recollection of oft-repeated and solemn protestations of fidelity and affection.

3. The recollection of the scene at the Last Supper.


1. The retirement he sought. True repentance flies to solitude, and shrinks even from sympathy.

2. The depth of his sorrow.Concluding lessons:

1. Consolation to those who, like Peter, weep bitterly in secret. Special news of Christ's resurrection sent to Peter: "Seek him in his solitude, and tell him that the Lord waits with open arms to receive him."

2. But remember that the great moral of the whole is caution. Learn, therefore, by way of application in the first place, the necessity of guarding vigilantly against the approaches of temptation. Learn, secondly, from this subject, the necessity of prudence in making a profession, but of integrity in acting up to it when it is made. Learn, then, in the last place, the necessity of decision of character in matters of religion.

(J. Thorp.)

Christian at Work.
Doubtless it was a look of blended significance. There must have been in the Saviour's countenance an expression of mingled emotions. At a single glance there may have been conveyed to Peter what would have required many words to express.

I. It doubtless spoke to him REPROOF. An impressive reminder of the great wrong he had done.

II. It was, too, a GRIEVED LOOK. Such a look as a kind mother turns upon a wayward son who has wronged her.

III. It was, at the same time, A PITYING LOOK. The Saviour felt for Peter in his wretched condition. Forgetting His own great impending sorrows, He had it in His heart to sympathize with poor, unhappy Peter. He knew that, notwithstanding all he had done, he was a genuine disciple, and that the time of reflection would soon come, when he would be overwhelmed with grief.

IV. And, still further, it was a FORGIVING LOOK. The Lord knew how deep would be Peter's self-reproach and anguish of soul when he came to himself, and that he would be tempted to despair of forgiveness. So by this look he would inspire him with hope.

(Christian at Work.)

He remembered. He realized under the eye of Jesus what he had been doing. A glance of God into his soul revealed his loss of himself. Beholding his Lord, as he stood in the calm triumph of His Divine manhood looking into his timid soul, he could not help knowing himself in his weakness and shame. Not a word was spoken. God does not need to speak to judge us. He will only need to look upon us. One look of divinity is enough to convince of sin. Peter the denier, under the eye of the Son of God, became at once Peter the penitent. And we know how afterwards Peter the penitent became Peter the man — firm as the rock — the true Peter, hero of faith, and made worthy at last of meeting and returning with joy the look of the risen and ascended Lord among the sons of God on high. These effects of Jesus' flashings of God upon Peter show very simply and plainly Jesus' method of convincing men of sin, and of lifting them up through repentance to real and everlasting manliness. No man ever felt Jesus' eye upon him, and went away without a look into his own heart which he had never had so clearly before. Some men went away from Christ to the judgment. The thoughts of many hearts, as Simeon foresaw, were revealed by him. Jesus' gospel, therefore, being thus intensely personal, real, and revealing, is the most honest thing in this whole world. It is no form, no fiction of life, no exaggeration of feeling, no mere speech about God and the world to come; it is the one essentially and perfectly honest thing in this world of words and forms and fictions of life. Now let me specify two or three particulars which are brought out in Jesus' revelation of men to themselves. He made men, whom His divinity searched, understand that they were personally responsible for their own real characters. He did not allow His disciples to condemn men for their misery, or their misfortunes, or the consequences of their circumstances, or any of those influences which meet from beyond their own wills in men's lives. But He made every soul of man realize that within life's circumstances there is a living centre of personal responsibility. Jesus made men understand, also, that in their sinning they have to do with personal beings. We do not sin against abstractions, or against a system of commandments only; we are persons in a society of persons of which God is the centre and the source. All sin is against the realities of a most personal universe. Sin strikes against beings. Peter sinned against the Lord who had chosen him, and who was about to die for him. The sinfulness of sin is not that it is simply a transgression of a law; but it beats against love. All sin is against love, against all love; for it is sin against the living, personal being of God. Again, as Jesus Christ showed men themselves in their sins, he showed them also that those sins of theirs are something which God cannot endure for ever. They must not be. They shall not be. God cannot always endure them, and be the God He is. Jesus said He did not come to judge the world; and yet again He said, "Now is the judgment of this world." God on high cannot suffer us to go on in this way for ever. He must redeem us and make us like Himself, or He must do something else worthy of Himself with us. This is morally certain. And one thing more is clear as a star in the mystery of Godliness. There is one thing more which we need to know which Jesus makes as bright as day in His gospel of God to man. When Peter was at Jesus' knees saying in the first honest instinct of a man who saw himself, "I am a sinful man," Jesus stood over him radiant like a God, and said, "Fear not." Such is God's lovely attitude towards every penitent at the feet of His Almightiness! Fear not! Sin is forgiven and all its darkness made bright in the love which reveals it. The cloud of our sky becomes a glory at the touch of the sun. If we will not come to the light to be made known and to be forgiven, then we remain in the darkness. Penitence is holding ourselves up in God's pure and infinite light, and letting Him shine our darkness away. Fear not; sin is vouchsafed forgiveness in the same love which it shows to sin, and condemns it.

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

Peter went out, and wept bitterly

1. Peter, like Judas, surrenders his Lord to His foes.

2. The sin of Peter, like that of Judas, was the act of an intimate and confidential friend.

3. This denial by Peter occurred immediately after the Supper, and after witnessing the agony of Christ in the garden.

4. Peter's denial was in the face of his own protestations to the contrary, and of Christ's recent and explicit warning.

5. Peter's denial was aggravated by repetition, and at each repetition he contracted deeper guilt.

6. This sin of Peter was committed in the very presence and hearing of the Lord.


1. For instance, Peter's sin was sudden, under strong temptation; while the sin of Judas was deliberate and long-premeditated.

2. Then, too, the motives by which the two were prompted — Peter, by a natural fear and the instinctive love of life; Judas, by the most sordid of all the passions that move the human heart — the base love of gold.

3. In Peter's case there was no heart-denial of his Lord; it was only of the lips.

4. In Peter there was only the suppression of his discipleship.


1. Judas is judicially abandoned; Peter, only temporarily deserted.

2. In the case of Judas there was only remorse; in that of Peter, sincere repentance.

3. In Judas there was a total and final rejection of Christ; in Peter, a loving return to Him.

4. Judas sealed his guilt by his suicide; Peter sealed his repentance by a life of consecration to his Master's service.Concluding reflections:

1. You have the plainest evidence, in all the actions of Judas and of Peter, that they were flee and responsible, acting under the power of motives.

2. We see in Peter's fall the wonderful discipline by which he was graciously prepared for his work, revealing to us that paradox of the gospel, how grace, in its power, brings evil out of good, and transmutes the poor, fallen, erring sinner into the accepted messenger of God.

3. These two, Judas and Peter, are the types, respectively, of the only two classes of sinners. The difference between sinner and saint is found in the behaviour of the two in respect to their sins — the one persisting in it, the other weeping bitterly.

(B. M. Palmer, D. D.).

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