Artist: Michael D. O’Brien
Medium: Acrylic on hardboard
Size: 60 x 60 cm
Date: c. 2005
Location: Private collection
John 18:25-27 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
As noted by the artist, Simon Bar Jonah loves Jesus, but does not understand himself. He is often brave and considers himself to be very strong. The Lord has renamed him "Peter", "Kepha", meaning "rock." When the time of ultimate testing comes, however, he is astonished and horrified to find himself ruled by fear, denying that he knows Jesus. John, by making Peter's denials simultaneous with Jesus' defense before Annas, has constructed a dramatic contrast wherein Jesus stands up to his questioners and denies nothing, while Peter cowers before his questioners and denies everything. The foil Peter provides helps highlight Jesus' regal strength and authority, the hallmark of John's portrait of Jesus in his passion. Yet Peter does repent, and in this repentance are the seeds of the man who will become the rock on which the Church is built.
Michael D. O'Brien (b. 1948) is a Roman Catholic author, artist, and frequent essayist and lecturer on faith and culture, living in Combermere, Ontario, Canada. Born in Ottawa, he is self-taught, without an academic background. His paintings, in a neo-Byzantine style with a contemporary interpretation, are also featured on the covers of all of his books. His work can be seen on his website http://www.studiobrien.com/.