Peter had heard the Heavenly voice bidding: “Hear
ye him” (Mt. 17:5). This was intended to take his mind back to
Dt. 18:15, where it was written that Messiah would be
‘heard’ by the faithful. But Peter fell down paralyzed with
fear; he didn’t really hear the son of God then. Yet in Acts
3:22, Peter quotes Dt. 18:15 and asks his hearers to obey the passage
by hearing Jesus, through his preaching of Him. He was asking his
audience to do what he himself hadn’t done.
Later on, it was Peter who opened the door of faith to
the Gentiles. It was evidently a huge paradigm break for Peter- to be
responsible for Gentiles accepting baptism and thereby becoming
brethren in fellowship, and members of the Israel of God. The key was
for him to realize that God is no accepter of persons. Reflection on
God’s acceptance of him after the denials must surely have been
an important factor in inspiring him to preach to those whom previously
he would have rejected out of hand as a worthy audience for the Gospel.
The incident occurred in Joppa, where Jonah likewise had struggled with
the problem of preaching to the Gentiles. The Lord’s comment
‘Simon bar Jona’ (Jn. 1:42) may have reflected His
understanding that Simon Peter had the characteristics of Jonah even
then. Peter preached that all the prophets testify to the
fact that both Jew and Gentile can find salvation in Christ (Acts
10:43)- when it was self-evident that he hadn’t grasped this or
believed it, for all his familiarity with the OT. It’s almost as
if in his witness he is signalling his own blindness in this area; and
thereby his preaching had power, in that he openly admits his own
earlier inability to grasp that which he now preaches to others.
The Father seems to have wanted Peter to make the
connection between preaching and recognition of personal sinfulness
quite early on. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O
Lord” (Lk. 5:8) was followed by a commission to go preach the
Gospel to Israel, just as Isaiah had been brought to the same point and
then been sent on a like mission. And yet there later on, Peter’s
witness was just as motivated by this same recognition. The Gospel
records are transcripts of how those authors preached the Gospel; they
would have repeated the same basic message of Jesus so many times that
an inspired copy was made. “The word of the Lord (Jesus) endureth
for ever. And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto
you” (1 Pet. 1:25). There is ample reason, chronicled in many
commentaries, to believe that Mark’s Gospel is a transcription of
that of Peter. If this is so, it becomes highly significant that Mark
plays down Peter’s greatness and makes more pointed reference to
his failures. Peter's humility comes out in the fact that we learn of
Peter's preeminent status after the resurrection only from the other
Gospels- and not from Mark (Mt. 16:13-19; Lk. 22:31,32; Jn. 21:4-19).
This means that Peter’s witness to the Gospel was inextricably
linked with his own sense of unworthiness. Consider the following
examples of this:
- Matthew and Luke record a blessing on the disciples
because they understood (Mt. 13:16,17; Lk. 10:23,24). But Mark’s
record has: “Do you not understand this parable? How then will
you understand all the parables?”.
- Mark alone records that Peter drew attention to the
fact that the fig tree had indeed withered from the roots, just as the
Lord had said it would. The implication is that he marvelled at how the
Lord’s word had come true, implying less faith than he ought to
- “Who touched my clothes?” seemed to the
disciples an unreasonable question, “and the disciples were
saying so with a bluntness which is mellowed in the other
accounts” apart from Mark’s (L.G. Sargent, Mark
- Peter’s recognition that Jesus was indeed the
Christ is recorded by Mark in great brevity, without the acolade from
the Lord Jesus which Matthew records (Mk. 8:29). Peter realized that at
that stage he didn’t really know the full implications of knowing
Jesus as Lord and Christ.
- The same writer comments regarding the
disciples’ response to the Lord’s invitation for the
disciples to provide food for the hungry crowd: “In their retort
to Jesus as Mark gives it there is a touch of impatience which is
softened in the other accounts” (p. 93).
- Likewise it is Mark [Peter] who records that the
Lord’s teaching had made all foods clean; for He had said that a
man is defiled by what comes out of him rather than what goes into him.
But it was Peter who had been so so slow to realize this, as was well
known through his much publicized account of the events at Caesarea.
There he had refused to eat ‘unclean’ animals, quite
forgetting the implications of his Lord’s words. And in his
recounting of those words as he preached, he makes this apparent.
- “Thou art Petros, and upon this rock [Gk. petra]
I will build my church” (Mt. 16:17,18) is carefully ommitted in
Mark’s record, as if to downplay any possible self-exaltation in
preaching. And Christian preachers can take a lesson from this.
- It is only Mark who records the two cock crowings at
the time of Peter’s denial. Peter wished to quietly emphasize the
exactness of fulfilment of the Lord’s words about his denial.
Mark / Peter likewise record Peter’s words as: “I neither
know nor understand what you mean”. The ‘what’ can
apply to both Jesus personally as well as the general ‘being
with’ Jesus. Peter is admitting that He had denied having any
understanding at all of the Lord- the Lord whose knowledge he now
preached. One can imagine Peter’s voice quivering as he recounted
his Gospel story. Note how Luke says that all the disciples slept in
Gethsemane (Lk. 22:45); but Mark [Peter] records how only Peter, James
and John slept (Mk. 14:37).
- The record of Peter's denials is really an account
of his response to interrogation, and his denials of charges. It is
consciously intended to be read in tandem with the account of the
behaviour of the Lord Jesus at His interrogation at the same time, and
his refusal to deny charges. Peter is portrayed here as the very
opposite of the example set by his Lord.
- Only Mark records that the women were told to go and
tell the disciples “and Peter”. Although Mark is
the shortest Gospel record, it gives the most detail about events
connected with Peter's failures- e.g. it is Mark alone who records how
Peter stood "in the light of the fire" (Mk. 14:54 RV).
- Mark 14:19 reads: “And they began to be
sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said,
Is it I?”. It is easy to assume that this “another”
was Judas. But it has been suggested that in spoken Aramaic, “and
another said...” would be a device for saying ‘And I, I
said...’. If Mark’s Gospel is a verbatim account of
Peter’s preaching of the Gospel, this would be so appropriate.
Peter would be saying: ‘All the disciples couldn’t imagine
it was them who would betray Jesus; and I, yes I also asked if it was
me who would betray Him. I was so sure I wouldn’t’. The
record in Mark 14 then goes on to describe how Peter did
effectively betray / deny the Lord.
- Mark’s [Peter’s] Gospel omits many
incidents, but also uses the device of repetition to stress what the
writer considers significant. In Mk. 14:68 he records himself as having
said: “I know not, neither understand I what thou
sayest”. He stresses the nature of his own rejection of knowledge
of the Lord. A similar awareness of the weakness of the flesh is found
in 7:21: “From within, out of the heart of man...”.
- In Acts 3:4, Peter commanded the lame man:
“Look on us”. The lame man responded, and the people were
amazed at the subsequent miracle. But Peter then tells them: “Ye
men of Israel, why marvel ye at this man? or why fasten ye your
eyes on us [i.e., why do you ‘look on us’], as though
by our own power or godliness we had made him to walk? The God of
Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath
glorified his Servant Jesus” (Acts 3:12,13). I wonder if Peter
was here publically acknowledging an inappropriate turn of phrase, when
he had asked the lame man to ‘Look on us’- and
immediately, he humbly and publically corrected himself, redirecting
all glory and all eyes to the Father and Son.