His robe was spotted with blood. A head wound of any kind is messy, and Peter had cut off a man’s ear. It was a precise cut, directed at the slave of the high priest. A non-life-threatening wound to a person of no account. It was a statement.
So was the response of Jesus. “Put away your sword. I will do what I need to do. I need to do what the Father wills.” And then Jesus healed the servant.
Ready to defend Jesus, Peter didn’t expect the resistance to come from his own side. He steps away. He moves to the back of the crowd. And as Jesus talks with the soldiers, and is arrested, and is led away, Peter follows. Behind the torches. Behind the rear guard.
At the large house of the high priest, Peter waits outside the gate. Like Samwise, unable to follow Frodo. Until another disciple with inside connections speaks to the bouncer and gets him into the party.
As he slips by, the doorkeeper says, “You aren’t with the arrested one, are you?” Calculating quickly with the sudden shrewness of a spontaneous spy, Peter says, “no”. Through the door, he found a crowd. He mingled, in the shadows cast by the front row of slaves and soldiers by the charcoal fire.
As he warms up, Peter relaxes. He leans forward. A couple soldiers, noticing the blood spatter, noticing something, say “You aren’t with him, are you?” Peter says, “no.”
The light flares. Peter sees a man who looks just like the slave he sliced. Perhaps it was the shape of the earlobe. Perhaps it is the intensity of the stare, the color of the skin. Peter only has time to sense a connection when the man says, “Didn’t I see you out there?” With vehemence of one terrified of revenge in the middle of a hostile crowd, Peter says, “no.”
Said this way, denial makes sense. It’s almost acceptable. Until it’s not.
From John 18