But Peter answering said to him: 'Although all men shall be scandalized in Thee, I will never be scandalized.' And Jesus saith to him: 'Amen I say to thee, today, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice.' But Peter spoke the more vehemently, and saith to Him: 'Although I should die together with thee, I will not deny Thee.' And in like manner also said they all.1
- 1. Matt. 26:33-35; Mk 14:29-31
It is natural that Peter should take alarm at this warning of our Lord. Whatever other follies and mistakes he had made in his life, however much he had hitherto been rebuked, he had never been unfaithful. On the contrary, he was Peter, and no longer Simon, precisely because he had been the first to proclaim: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." On another occasion, when so many turned away "and walked with Him no more"; when the broken-hearted Christ turned to His disciples and asked them: "Will you also leave Me?" he had spoken for them all: "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Again, on the Sea of Galilee he had walked upon the waters to his Master; and on Mount Thabor he had said in his enthusiasm: "Lord, it is good for us to be here." Never yet had he failed one tittle in his allegiance; surely, then, he would be confident now. He would be; no matter what might happen to the rest: "Although all men shall be scandalized in Thee, I will never be scandalized."
What do Our Lord and St. Peter mean by this being "scandalized"? We have it best expressed by the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. "We hoped," they said together, "that it was He that should have redeemed Israel." We hoped! and they were disappointed. We hoped in this "Prophet, mighty in word and work before God and all the people." They had seen all He had done, they had heard all He had said. They had trusted in Him as the Saviour of the world, as the King of Israel. And yet that was to happen this night and next day which was to shake their confidence. Before midnight they were to think less well of Him whom they had chosen for their Ideal and their Master. They were to be disillusioned and to doubt; this was to be scandalized in Him. And the same has been ever since. Jesus Christ is a disappointment to many; He is too lowly for their liking; He will not act when they think He ought. They forget His warning: "Blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in Me."
It cannot be doubted that these men loved Our Lord. It cannot be doubted that when they protested they meant every word they said. Perhaps it was on this account that Our Lord seemed already to have forgiven them; the seriousness of the offence seems scarcely to be noticed. Still, their love was not enough to save them from disaster. Their spirit may indeed have been willing, but their nature was weak; and there are times when spirit and nature must be strong together if one is to
conquer. Natural virtue may usually be equal to natural trial; but man is more than merely natural, and he is submitted to more than merely natural forces. When that time comes, there must be in him something supernatural that he may come through safe; and this is the meaning of the spiritual life, the significance of prayer as a safeguard in temptation.
- The protest of Peter seemed naturally justified. He had not yet learned himself.
- To be "scandalized" is to be disappointed, disillusioned, grow mistrustful.
- And they were scandalized, not because they did not love, because they had not the spiritual sight that was needed.