Peter's denial

Peter's Denial by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Any faith worth its salt recognizes our capacity for denial, betrayal, and flight, as well as our capacity for truth, love, and courage. Steve Shoemaker’s poem about the Apostle Peter, “the Rock” who crumbled, takes us into the heart of the matter. It;s a reflection on Peter denying that he knew Jesus (represented by Carl Bloch’s painting where he looks away from the woman who claims he knows him) and the post-resurrection appearance where the resurrected Christ offers forgiveness.

“DENIAL” – Steve Shoemaker, 2012


The future Bishop began badly.  He

was “rude, crude and lewd,” as they say.

His fist would shake, would hit,

his mouth could often be a sneer, or leer…

but Jesus chose him first.


The fisherman was big and brash, yes,

bold as well at times.  But after the arrest

a servant girl confronted him and

told those listening that Peter was with Christ.

He swore and then denied it, then again

and still again–she would not stop.


The cry then came of rooster telling of the dawn,

and he wept because he had told a lie.

But Peter felt forgiveness full and deep

when Jesus three times told him,

“Feed my sheep.”

Peter “the Rock” was no rock. Nor are we. He was sinking sand. So are we.

Like “the future Bishop,” we slip badly and yet we are raised up. Betrayal, denial, flight are part of every human story. But grace… even more….so much more, abounds! And to the likes of Peter and of us, there comes to our three-fold denial the Voice of forgiveness with a gentle but bold command: “Re-gain your courage. Live in love!”

10 thoughts on “DENIAL

  1. It is interesting what you don’t notice in a story until you hear it in another form. The fact that it was just a servant girl that confronted him really jumps out in this poem. Not a priest or a guard or a soldier – a mere servant girl. Who cares what a servant girl thinks or knows about you? What harm could she possibly do to you if she knew? The rejection and denial is total and there is no excuse to be made.
    And it is wonderful to realise that we are all human in this way. That when our inner rock crumbles to sand, God is still willing to trust us with his Kingdom. How amazing is that?


    • So true…”It is interesting what you don’t notice in a story until you hear it in another form.” Steve has a way of doing that – turning things ever so slightly to change our perspective. And he just did it again through your notice of the servant girl. I hadn’t noticed that. The fact that it was the lowly “servant” “girl” who spoke the truth and whose recognition of the truth threatened Peter to the core is worth every bit of reflection we can give it.

      And, your last paragraph is a leap of joy. Yes. How amazing is THAT? Please send on further reflections. Another home run for Steve.


  2. We all need to be reminded that there is more good than evil in human beings and that we are forgiven – and should forgive ourselves! – for all of the times we slip up. Keep reminding us. It helps us keep our chins up and our mind on the positive.


      • I just love how relateable this story of Peter is. We all turn away from Christ at some point…maybe not by denying him but by turning to other things. And I love how Christ’s answer was “feed my sheep” because i have seen in my own life how i can draw closer to him by “feeding his sheep” or lending my hand to others. After turning away from him, how better to turn back than by following in his footsteps? It’s beautiful.


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