The Rooster Crows Twice
Last Sunday I included a paragraph about Peter’s denial of Christ that was a repeat of a Lenten sermon from some years back. Here’s the first point of that sermon…
I. The Unheeded Rooster (Mark 14:66-68)
Mark introduced this story of Peter’s denial in verse 54, then he tells the story of Jesus appearing before the council of the Sanhedrin and their condemning and beating and mocking him, and then he resumes the story of Peter’s denial in verse 66. The point of presenting the stories in this way is to show that they happened simultaneously. At the same moment that Jesus is accepting suffering for the truth, Peter is avoiding suffering with a lie. Mark says in verse 66 that Peter is “below” in the courtyard, while Jesus is above being beaten and mocked, probably on some sort of balcony or open veranda where Peter can catch an occasional glimpse of the proceedings.
And yet Peter, having already disqualified himself from being any sort of useful witness at this hearing by drawing his sword earlier that night in the garden, is now all out of courage. Dejected and at a loss for what to do, he gravitates toward the fire. It’s chilly out, it’s the wee hours of the morning, and so he turns away from following the proceedings and sits down with the guards beside the fire. John picks up on this detail in his gospel and gives it some extra emphasis. It seems we are to consider that Peter’s warming himself at the fire of the world was one of the many gradual steps of descent that led to his shameful denial of Jesus. Fellowship with the enemy around the fires of worldliness makes us soft, dulls our edge, makes us forget about our loyalty to Jesus.
He had boasted to Jesus earlier that he was willing to die with him, but now he’s not even willing to be cold. He had boasted to Jesus earlier that he was willing to die with him, but immediately showed that he wasn’t able to pray with him for even one hour without falling asleep. He was willing to do what was heroic in his own little mind, but he was not willing to do the simply obedient. Peter desperately needed the humiliation that he was about to experience, and so all disciples of Christ begin their discipleship with mountains of pride that need to be laid low.
One of the servant girls of the high priest spots him and says, with a scorning tone, you were with this Nazarene, this Jesus. Remember the ethnic prejudice against these Galileans, these northerners that led people to say things like “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Now in his first denial, Peter doesn’t come right out and say “I don’t know the man.” He instead plays dumb. He acts like he doesn’t understand her. He’s still looking for a loophole, some way out of this uncomfortable situation that keeps his self-righteousness intact. But Mark calls it a denial.
And then the rooster crowed for the first time. Now Mark is the only gospel that records that the rooster crowed twice. And we spent a lot of time in seminary studying this problem so that we could refute the skeptics who saw in this a contradiction in the Bible. But I thought even then that if the skeptics were applying all their energies to debunking the Bible, and they best they could come up with was how many times the rooster crowed, well then the case for the trustworthiness of the Bible must be very strong indeed. The other gospel writers chose to simplify the narrative, so what? And if you start asking questions like, well then how many times did the rooster really crow? The answer is who knows? It doesn’t matter. He probably crowed dozens of times. Only one or two of them were deemed worthy of comment. I didn’t grow up on a farm, so I always thought that roosters just crowed once at sunrise until I went on a missions trip in college to Ensenada, Mexico. There we slept in tents at night on the grounds of this orphanage we were painting, and they had chickens. And that rooster would crow every five minutes from about 3:30 am to noon. I hated that rooster, we didn’t get very good sleep that week.
The more profitable question to ask is why Mark chose to tell us about two crows of the rooster. Is it not to convict us further by reminding us that even in the midst of our sinning and backsliding, there are these cock-crows, these providential warnings of the Lord that go unheeded by us until we finally repent? The Lord is faithful to keep testifying against us even as we are drifting away from him. Let me encourage you to do some heart searching this week. Don’t let this sermon be another unheeded rooster. Plan some time alone with God with an open Bible and an open journal and listen to the Lord. Ask him to remind you of the things he’s been saying to you that you’ve forgotten, the warnings you’ve ignored. Perhaps further humiliation can be avoided and the next crow you hear will be…
II. The Rooster of Remembrance and Repentance (read 69-72)
(more to come…)