Peter’s Torment: “I Don’t Know the Man!”

Posted on August 11, 2020


By David Ettinger

Note: This fictional account examines Peter’s anguish after denying Jesus.

Chilling Denial
“I don’t know the man!”

hand raised

The words resonated through Peter’s soul and body, every limb and artery transporting its wretched indictment.

“I don’t know the man!”

The chilling denial of the Man Peter loved most inundated his heart and being. He had never felt such disgrace and was not sure he could survive its relentless force. As he sat in the lonely nook of a building in the heart of Jerusalem, he cried silently, his body heaving.

The events of that night kept flooding over him, its memories haunting, taunting, and punishing him. Three times, you fool! his conscious rebuked him. Three times you denied Him! And all that bragging. “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). Big talk, Peter, big talk. You were the first to fall away, and you did it three times. Three times!

Peter had even called down curses on himself – “May God strike me down if I know who this man is you are speaking of!”

Remembering Father
If ever Peter needed an embrace, it was now. He thought of his father and the way he used to embrace him when he was a boy. How Peter wished he were in his father’s arms right now. He tried to imagine it, running to his father’s open arms, just as he did when he was but a boy, and his father, the fisherman Jonah, snatching up young Peter and lifting him high in the air and twirling him around.

james farentino
James Farentino as Peter from the movie “Jesus of Nazareth”

Peter took comfort in the unlikely vision, and wished he could return to those days. Days of simplicity and hope, when anything seemed possible. Peter cherished those days growing up in Bethsaida, before his name was changed to Peter and he was known simply as Simon bar, or son of, Jonah. He remembered when he was 8 and 9 and 10 and his father would take him out at night to the Sea of Galilee to teach him the honored trade of fishing. Peter learned much from the skillful Jonah, but that was only part of it.

For Peter, every moment with his father was a joy, something to esteem and preserve and hold on to for the rest of his life. He remembered catching his first fish at age 5 and Jonah rejoicing over it as he put young Simon on his shoulders and paraded him around the heart of Bethsaida proclaiming, “My son’s first fish! The first of many. He will be a great fisherman one day!”

Following the Rabbi
He was right. Peter did become a fine fisherman, one his father was proud of. But one thing his father didn’t admire, or at least understand, was the day Peter told him that he was taking a temporary leave from business to follow a Rabbi from Nazareth who was proclaiming the emergence of something called “the Kingdom of God.” Jonah was baffled.

“You would give up everything I taught you to follow this Man, my son?”

“I can’t explain it myself, father,” Peter admitted. “‘Come, follow me,” He said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men’” (Matthew 4:19).

“What does that mean, my son?”

sea of galilee
The Sea of Galilee

“I’m not sure, father, but I know that this Man is special. And I am not one to follow people blindly.”

He wasn’t. Skeptical and cautious, Peter viewed everyone in a negative light. What is he up to and what does he want? was Peter’s mantra whenever he met someone. But with the Rabbi it was different. This Man, Jesus, had proved His credentials by providing for Peter a miraculous catch that sent the big fisherman reeling. Peter’s every emotion and instinct was set aflame by the Rabbi, who Peter believed was sent from God.

Peter eventually secured his father’s blessing, and it was a relief. He then set out to follow the Man who revealed Himself to Peter as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One of Israel. With every miracle Jesus performed, with every act of tender compassion he bestowed, with every measure of mercy He imparted, Peter was more convinced that Jesus was who He said He was, the Son of God – God in human form.

When Jesus asked His 12 followers who they thought He was, all were silent – accept for Peter. Speaking boldly, confidently, he averred: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Peter became leader of the 12 and one in whom the Master confided and loved.

That Night
And then came that night. Jesus told Him that He would be arrested and put to death and that His followers would desert him. They all denied it, but Peter denied it the loudest.

“Never, Lord. Never!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered him softly, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (Matthew 26:34).

It happened. Just two hours ago. And Peter was in agony.


“Oh my Lord, he cried out. I have denied You! I have denied You!”

He writhed and threw dust on his head.

“Oh my father, if only you were here to comfort me.”

He pulled at his hair.

“Oh my heavenly Father, send me comfort.”

And then, in the misery of his soul, he suddenly recalled something Jesus had said. “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 17:23).

Peter didn’t understand it then, but now, it somehow made sense. He repeated the words over and over again. “On the third day” … “raised to life” … “raised to life” …

Peter still felt miserable, shamed, disgraced. And yet a hope, a light … something that told him that the story was not over, but was only beginning.

And in his solitude, he felt an arm. The arm of his father, or maybe it was His heavenly Father. He leaned back against the wall and rested his head. The arm held him tightly and new tears fell. Tears of hope replacing those of shame. Somehow, someway, things would be all right. Restoration was coming. He only need wait for it. Wait for the risen Christ.