When the Cock Crows

It is one of the most well-known expressions from one of the most well-known stories ever told.  Peter tells Christ, his Lord, that he will never, ever, betray Him.  Peter’s protestations of unending devotion should have melted a heart of stone.  Yet Christ calmly answers the insistence of His disciple with the prediction that Peter’s faithfulness will not last for even one day.

And Christ was right.

Let’s take a minute and walk with Peter on that fateful night so long ago.  In the space of less than one hour, his entire existence was pulled out from under him.  The Man Who had seemed invincible as He turned over the tables of the money changers in the Temple and raised Lazarus from the dead was a prisoner of the very high priests who had run before His anger.  The group of believers who had seemed bound by unbreakable ties was scattered.  And one of Peter’s closest companions had engineered the disaster, with Peter being totally unaware of the deception.

So Peter is alone, surrounded by strangers who are suspicious and hostile.  He was in that courtyard because he had NOT run away.  He had followed Christ, hoping for… something — a sign or an opportunity to help.  But in the darkness and hostility of that early morning courtyard, Peter became afraid.

And he gave in to that fear, betraying the One he loved the most.  It was, in many ways, the same fear that drove Judas.

There were, however, two major differences between the two men.

The first was in the nature and circumstances of the betrayal.  Judas planned and executed, Peter reacted spontaneously.

The second was in the aftermath.  Peter repented, transforming his moment of fear into a lifetime of faithfulness.  Judas did not.

Peter is the person who brings us to Easter.  When he heard that rooster, and remembered the prophetic words spoken only hours earlier, he turned TOWARD his Lord, not away from Him.  It was not only an immediate acknowledgement of the wrongness of his actions, it was an instinctive reach toward the One who could, and did, forgive them.

It’s as if Christ gave us, in the person of Peter, the opportunity to lay before the Cross all the times we have betrayed His love.  Because every one of us has been Peter.  Every one of us has failed to speak up in defense of faith or virtue because we were afraid.

The difference is that Peter was afraid for his very life.  We are usually afraid that someone might laugh at us, or not like us, or not include us.

As we participate in the rituals of Holy Week, let us resolve to listen for our own rooster’s crow.  And when we hear it, let us, like Peter, turn toward the One who can, and will, forgive our moments of betrayal.

And then let us, like Peter, follow that forgiveness with faithfulness.

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  • Warren Jewell

    One legend has it that Peter in his abject sorrow encountered Mary on her way to the Via Dolorosa from Pilate’s judgment yard. He fell to his knees, nearly to his face, at her feet, his face torn with his tears and contrition; and confessed to Mary how he had failed her Son and his own Best Friend. Worse, Jesus had foretold Peter’s betrayal.

    And, Mary but touched him, lifted his face to look into hers, and said, “Oh, Simon, Jesus’ own beloved fisher Peter, did you not hear in His foretelling His very mercy over it? He loves you too much not to forgive you even before you fail Him and yourself. Go, go and find a quiet place – let His Heart talk to yours – you’ll see His love and mercy.” The Mediatrix had begun her own salvific mission; if only Judas had thought as Peter did, to beg forgiveness from His Mother.

    And, no one else was quite as ready for the powerful graces of Pentecost as was Peter, the Rock of the Rock.

    In my youth, I wore a big dark beard, and was mistaken for a Jewish rabbi – my pastor affectionately called me his ‘resident rabbi’ – I wore black suits and a white woven hat, and have always looked as Jewish as any ethnicity. Yet, even then I wore a crucifix plainly over my shirt. However, my late wife would say, “Thou art Peter, for your hesitant tongue but fierce faith. I love you for how like Peter you can be.” A blessing from God, to see myself a betrayer, but abject in my contrition; and, still, hear of His love and forgiveness for me by the day.

    Why, sometimes, He would come through in our pastor and my beloved Sharon.

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