While our Lord was appearing before Caiphas, Peter had followed the Master from the home of Annas. With his usual abandon, Peter went right into the courtyard. You see, Caiphas’ home followed the usual style of such houses. It was arranged about two courtyards, surrounded by porticoes, onto which the windows and doors opened. The first courtyard was reserved for the servants and workmen, the second, raised above the first by a few steps and entered through a massive door reserved for the use of the high priest, before which was situated the great meeting hall of the Sanhedrin. The gate at the entrance to the house was usually guarded by a female slave.
For the second time that fateful night, Peter was recognized as a follower of the Messias, and another maidservant said to those who had gathered around: “This man was also with Jesus of Nazareth,” and Peter, Scripture says, “denied with an oath, ’I do not know the man!’” (Mt. 26:72.) Shortly thereafter someone else saw Peter, and said: “Thou, too, art one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not” (Lk. 22:58).
What a pitiful spectacle was Peter! He loved his Master, but strange to relate, despite all his love he could not rise to the occasion and confess Him. Impetuosity constantly placed him in danger. Peter lied when he denied knowing Christ the first time he was accused of it. He lied again, as we have just seen, when he was questioned the second time, but he somehow knew his lie was not very convincing so he had to emphasize it with an oath.
He who tells a lie is not sensible to how great a task he undertakes, for he is usually forced to tell many more lies to maintain the first one. Indeed, the ways of falsehood are perplexed and tangled. Oh, if Peter had had the courage of St. Anthimus! It is related that the holy Bishop of Nicomedia would not allow soldiers who were sent to arrest him and who were enjoying his hospitality, to save him by a lie. He preferred to suffer martyrdom rather then be the cause of a lie in his behalf.
Learn from this second denial by Peter of his God, not to rely on your own strength to keep you from falling into sin. Had Peter taken a good estimate of his own weakness, he would never have exposed himself to temptation for the second time. Learn not to rely on past conduct as a safeguard against future falls. Peter was under no stress when he openly confessed earlier in his ministry his belief in the divinity of Christ, saying “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16). Under the taunting gaze of a maidservant, and in the face of the possible arrest as an associate of the Messias, he found himself void of his former courage. Peter counted too much upon himself; and so he fell, as everyone falls who trusts solely in his own strength and exposes himself rashly to danger.
Learn, finally, that Peter’s repeated protestations of fidelity made the evil of denial more grievous. It is a greater sin for one who has publicly declared his love for Christ to prove disloyal to Him, than for one who never made such a profession.
*From Reflections on the Passion by Father Doyle