The First Denial and the First Rooster’s Crowing
“But he disowned him before everyone saying, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about!’”
“But he disowned him saying, “I don’t know or understand what you are talking about!’ He went out to the gateway and the rooster crowed.”
“But he disowned him saying, ‘I don’t know him, woman!’”
“The slave-girl that was at the door said to Peter, ‘Aren’t you also from the disciples of this man?’ He said, ‘I am not.’”
We tend to be familiar with the account of Peter’s denial. The variations should be pretty readily recognizable as in harmony with one another — each Gospel writer focusing on a little different aspect of what was said by both parties. In English, we often render the word ajrne/omai (arneomai) as “deny,” but in context the term means to disown or repudiate one’s connection with another person and deny just did not seem strong enough to convey what is going on at this point in time. Peter is disowning the one person who had promised never to disown him (Hebrews 13:5). How true that is with us and with our sin. How often, by choosing sin we choose to turn our backs on the one who offers us salvation, forgiveness, and the eternal fellowship of divine grace. He will never leave nor forsake us, but how often we forsake our blessings and hope by looking for satisfaction elsewhere.
One will note that in Mark’s account he records the rooster crowing after this first denial while the other Gospel writers do not record the rooster’s crowing until after the third denial. Again, that should not cause us to stumble greatly as Mark is the one Gospel author who points out that the rooster crowed more than once. The other writers, then, are focusing on the rooster crow after the final denial and Mark also pointing out that the rooster had crowed earlier in the night as well — perhaps as a warning to Peter as to the path that he was now taking. How often God offers us warnings and how often we ignore those warnings as we go through life and fall into sin and grief.
It is sometimes suggested that the fact that the rooster is crowing is an indication as to just how late (or how early, depending on your perspective) it happens to be in the night/morning. While it is certainly clear that this is taking well past dark and likely into the wee hours of the morning, the inference is not really one that can be drawn from the presence of roosters who are often thought of as crowing at the rising of the sun. The reality is that roosters crow at all different kinds of hours, using their crowing to mark territory, attract the hens, and to warn at the presence of predators. What we can say is that God has chosen to use this common farm bird as a tool in the eternal plan of redemption — a reminder to we who are human (and able to understand God’s gracious acts towards us) that God is sovereign King over the created order — even the animals serve at his command. May perhaps this crowing of the cock be a reminder to us as to God ever present providential governing of our own lives as well.
And thus, the rooster’s crow (from a distance) marks Peter’s first denial. Twice more will he deny the Lord on this dark night. Yet, let Peter’s sobering experience be a reminder to us as well as to how often we are tempted to deny our Lord by word and action — especially when we feel threatened. And may this reminder to us be a clarion call to act; pursuing Christ no matter the cost and no matter the opposition to the glory of our God and Father. Yet, on this night, the rooster’s crow would be a warning and then a reminder that would drive Peter to his knees — breaking his pride so that he would be fit and pliable clay in the Master’s hands.