Men speak of the paintings of the Greek-Spanish artist known as El Greco, and how his heavy strokes tell you that what you are looking at is one of El Greco's paintings, in whatever gallery you may see it. So Peter is always Peter—whether in a state of nature or a state of grace, whether before or after he became a follower of Christ, whether during the days of his discipleship or the days of the founding of the Church, whether pulling in nets on the Sea of Galilee or with Christ in the desert place when he asked the disciples who he was, or listening to Christ talk with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration, or sitting with Christ at the last supper, or even in his dreams. You can't miss him or mistake him for any other. No matter where you put Peter down, he will always speak and act like Peter.
One of the most dramatic scenes in literature is that sketch of George Eliot's in Romola where the selfish and attractive young Greek, Tito Melema, confronted at the banquet by his foster father, Baldassare—who had toiled and sacrificed for him and when they parted had given him the jewels with which to purchase his freedom from the pirates who held him a slave—coldly said that he had never seen the man before, that he must be some poor lunatic.
That was a great scene. But what can compare with the scene when Jesus and Peter met face to face? All the angels who had been watching turned away their faces in sorrow when they heard Peter swear. He said he had never known Christ. If we could have put our minds into the mind of Christ, perhaps this is what we would have heard him saying to himself: "Peter says he
never knew me! Me, who called him that day by the Sea of Galilee; me, who told him he would become a rock; me, whom he confessed as the Son of God; me, whom he said he would never permit to wash his feet; me, whom he said he would follow to prison and to death!"
A Keswick speaker some years ago told the following story:
I remember hearing a Welsh preacher tell of a dream that he had. He visited a certain town and, walking through the streets, saw placarded on hoardings advertisements of two meetings. He read the bills. One stated that a meeting would be held in a certain hall at a certain hour, and the preacher was to be the Angel Gabriel. He thought, 'I'd like to go and hear him.' The other notice was of another meeting at the same time, but in a different place, to be addressed by the Apostle Peter. He thought, 'And I'd like to hear Peter.' He was reading the two bills again when suddenly someone said, 'I see you are trying to make up your mind which of these two you will go to hear. If I may be allowed to advise, go and hear Peter. I've heard them both; Gabriel sent me to enquire of Peter who spoke words through which I was saved. My name is Cornelius.'
(Acts 10. 3-6; 11. 13, 14)
I think that look of Christ might seem to say:
`Thou, Peter, art thou then a common stone
Which I at last must break my head upon,
For all God's charge to His high angels, may
Guard my foot better? Did I yesterday
Wash thy feet, my beloved, that they should run
Quick to deny me 'neath the morning sun;
And do thy kisses, like the rest, betray?'
The cock crows loudly—`Go and manifest
A late contrition but no bootless fear.'
(Luke 22. 60, 61)