Read: Deuteronomy 23-25, Mark 14:51-72
On one of my missionary trips to Peru, there was a young man who preferred to sleep past dawn. Most people prefer it, really. But it was not to be. We were on a boat on a tributary of the Amazon River on our way to a pastoral conference. At that conference, we would be providing much of the food, including the meat. The best way to keep meat fresh on the Amazon is to keep it alive until you’re ready to eat it. So there was a rooster on the boat. Every morning, just as the sun began to peek over the horizon, that rooster would let us all know what time it was. The day we had chicken for dinner, the aforementioned young man celebrated. We would no longer be wakened by said rooster.
When the conference ended and we had all boarded the boat to return to the city, one last crate needed to be loaded. A thank you gift. A rooster. Even once we were back in the city, we had nature’s alarm clock. A reminder of dawn.
Back in the Gospel of Mark, another rooster served as a reminder. By the time it had crowed twice, Peter had denied Jesus three times.
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Mark 14:72 (NIV)
Most people would hear this story and shake their heads at Peter’s betrayal. I look at it as a story of a new beginning.
Peter knew in the moment, that to associate himself with Jesus would likely put him in a similar position—imprisoned. So, in the presence of his enemies, Peter denied his teacher, his leader, his friend.
But it is in the presence of our enemies that God makes provision.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
Psalm 23:5a (NIV)
Before Jesus had even been arrested, he knew exactly what Peter would do and say. He even told Peter so. Yet Jesus never cast Peter aside. He never scolded him or scorned him. He simply made the statement. Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, yet offered him the bread and the cup of covenant anyway.
Jesus didn’t accept the cross for the righteous, but for those like Peter, who in the moment would either, in faith, step out of the boat on to the waves or, in fear, deny he ever knew Jesus. Jesus went to the cross for those of us who struggle with our faith, going from the mountaintop to the valley and everything in between.
I think that Peter’s denial of Jesus only strengthened his resolve to follow. Imagine how he felt when that second rooster crowed and he realised what he had done. When he remembered what Jesus had told him. I suspect that, once the heat of shame subsided, he was filled with wonder and gratitude at the magnitude of Jesus’ actions.
In both stories here, the second rooster was a gift. For Peter, had he never heard that second crow, he would have stood by his denial. But instead, it was a reminder of the grace Jesus had extended to him, to the table already prepared for him in the presence of his enemies. Again, Peter found grace in the midst of a storm.