“Then he began to curse and to take an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ and at once the rooster crowed.”
“Then he began to place himself under a curse and take an oath, ‘I do not know the man of whom you speak!’ And at once the rooster crowed a second time and Peter remembered the word that Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, three times you will deny me.’ And he fell down and wept.”
“But Peter said, ‘I don’t know what you are talking about!’ Immediately, even as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.”
“Again, Peter disowned him and at once the rooster crowed.”
It has been said that the tradition of putting a rooster on top of a weathervane is meant as a reminder of the denial of Peter and how often, by our words and by our actions, we too fall into that sin. As we reflected before, isn’t it curious as to how God uses such a variety of things to remind us of our sin and to call us to righteousness. And now, through history, we are reminded of this great truth any time such a bird crows.
We have already noted that Mark is the only one that records that the rooster actually crowed twice, something that ought not be too surprising given that traditionally Mark is understood as having been Peter’s secretary in Jerusalem — and if anyone would know how many times the rooster crowed, Peter would.
What should weigh more heavily on your soul, though, is the cursing that takes place on Peter’s part. As has been mentioned, Peter is desperate. On one level he is desperate to follow Jesus and find out what is going to happen to his master. On another level, he is rightfully afraid for his life. There is no telling what this mob will do if they get their hands on Peter. Peter knows that and the words that fall from his lips reflect the reality that he is acting in that desperation. You can almost hear him screaming, “Just leave me alone!” to those who keep prodding him. And, then, this third disowning of Jesus is wed together with curses.
Interestingly, Matthew and Mark describe the curses somewhat differently. Matthew simply describes him cursing or swearing that his words are true. Mark adds that this curse was an imprecation against himself — something along the lines of, “May God strike me down if I am not telling the truth.” These must have been devastating words for Peter to utter and then to hear the crowing of the rooster following right on its heels, it must have been a crushing blow. Peter was reduced to a broken man.
Yet, that is not the end of Peter’s story. The difference between Peter’s story and Jude’s story is ultimately one about forgiveness — both from God and by oneself. Judas rejected Jesus just as plainly as Jesus did and both were broken men. Yet in God’s design, Judas bore the blame of his betrayal to the grave and into eternity. Peter, though broken, clung to hope and in God’s design was not only brought to forgiveness, but remade into the bold preacher we find in the book of Acts. What a transformation takes place between these verses and Acts 2, just a couple months later!
But that is how God works, is it not! Through the process of breaking God shows us that He is sovereign, that He orders our days, and that He is King and Ruler over the universe. We serve Him, not He us. We get ahead of ourselves if we explore Peter’s three-fold forgiveness here, but we need to at least be reminded that for Peter, as dark as this night may be, the day is coming and the story is not yet over — and praise be to God that such is the case! May you too rest in the knowledge that no matter how dark the days may seem — God is not done with you either.