When the Rooster Crows
On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter vowed his loyalty, telling Jesus he would lay down his life for Him. “Jesus then answered, ‘Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!’” (John 13:38 NIV) There is no doubt Peter was sincere, but what was genuine and admirable in his spirit could not translate into action. Three times that night Peter denied even knowing Jesus.
Having been one of Jesus’ most enthusiastic supporters, it would have been a heart-wrenching moment for Peter when he heard the rooster crow. All four Gospels record this event, and with the exception of John, tell how Peter broke down and wept. Many of us have shed bitter tears over failed attempts to please God, and are then resigned to the fact we will never be of any use to Him. Even after seeing the risen Christ, Peter probably felt that way, because he went back to his old life of fishing.
Scripture tells us early one morning, while Peter was fishing with a few other disciples, they saw a stranger on the shore, and when Peter recognized Him as the Lord, he jumped out of the boat and rushed towards Him. On this occasion, Jesus took Peter aside and asked him what must have been a painful question. “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” In all probability, “more than these” refers to the fish and/or equipment lying nearby. “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15–16)
The word “love” Jesus uses is the Greek word “agape.” Agape speaks of the highest love there is: the love of God, which is freely given and not dependent upon being reciprocated. Peter, acutely aware of his failures, answers Jesus with a lower love. He uses the Greek word “phileo,” which is to have warm affection and friendship. Three times Jesus asked Peter this question, but then uses the word “phileo” as Peter did. And each time, Jesus commissions him, “Feed my sheep.”
It is not our weaknesses or failures that disqualify us from being of service to God. In fact, they are what qualify us. Peter did not equate his love for Jesus by using the term “agape,” but in what had to have been painfully reminiscent of his three denials, he responds with honesty and humility. It is not until we humbly acknowledge we have come to an end in ourselves, and allow the life of Christ to be lived in us, that we have the résumé God is looking for.
Mentioned by name
The resurrection of Jesus brought new hope—and fresh anxiety. The angel at the tomb that morning told the women who came to anoint Jesus’ body: “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:6–7 NIV)
How do you think Peter felt about that? Not only had the Lord risen from the dead, but he had mentioned Peter’s name in particular. Imagine how that must have made Peter feel. Why had he been singled out? Was it because of the denials?
After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter must have known for sure that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Son of the living God! All Jesus’ claims about giving his life as a ransom for many were true. But would he have anything to do with Peter after Peter had denied him—not once, but three times over?
Peter soon got his answer. Jesus still accepted him, trusted him and loved him, despite the way Peter had turned against him. Peter soon found out that the words “tell Peter” were an expression of love, confidence and forgiveness from Jesus.
“Tell Peter.” What loving words of assurance for one who had been unfaithful! The Lord was saying, “No matter what you have done, there is forgiveness, there is hope. I am alive. I am with you all the way. I offer you a new beginning.”
The rest is history. Peter spent the rest of his days proclaiming boldly the good news of the Lord he once denied. He became a mighty witness to the gospel of Jesus, finally sealing his faith with his own blood in martyrdom. Peter left us a legacy of one who failed, but with the power of Jesus, one who had a new beginning and meaningful life for the glory of God.
Do you feel discouraged? Are you, like Peter, dismayed at the extent of your inadequacies, the pressure of living your faith, and those times when you may have also denied Jesus in your life?
Jesus knows what Christians will be facing in this life. Our faithfulness will be tested many times—through temptations, through rejection, opposition and discouragement. But in those words to Peter, we can see the will of our Lord that we will be able to bounce back and prevail. As those times come to us, we too can be a source of strength and inspiration for others.
Take heart! Be encouraged by the words of the Lord through the angel in the garden. His message is as much for you as it was for the one who felt he had gone too far to ever be accepted again … Jesus has risen from the dead—for you. He has been a ransom—for you!
We have all made many mistakes in the past! May God help us to rectify our errors and learn something from them. “And He healed all that came unto Him, for He had compassion upon the multitude.” (Matthew 8:16, 14:14) How can we turn anyone away? To whom will they go? Jesus alone has the words of eternal life. (John 6:68) We have to be willing to give people second chances. Jesus did it. The early church did it. Jesus even trusted Judas with the money, although He knew he was a thief. That’s really giving a guy a chance, don’t you think? (John 12:6)
Although every time Peter opened his mouth, he stuck his foot in it, and even went back to fishing for a while after he had denied his Master, when Jesus rose from the dead He told Mary Magdalene to go tell His disciples “and Peter” to meet Him in Galilee, knowing Peter might feel so condemned that he wouldn’t feel eligible anymore, and that even the disciples might consider him ousted! (Mark 16:7)
Also, let’s not forget the prodigal son, John Mark, King David, and many others who fell away for a while, but later went on to greater success, or at least a position of some trusted reinstatement, if their repentance was genuine. This includes every one of the disciples, who all forsook Him at the time of Jesus’ arrest. One of them even ran away naked because the guards grabbed his cloak. (Mark 14:51–52)
“Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone.” (John 8:7) I have fallen short, and so have you! What if God had refused to take us back or use us again? Where would we be now? We are all guilty. Let’s not be self-righteous! Jesus said to forgive seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22)
The Bible also says, “Him that is weak receive ye,” (Romans 14:1) and “Restore such an one.” (Galatians 6:1) “Gain thy brother.” (Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3) “To whom much hath been forgiven, the same loveth much.” (Luke 7:47) “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” (Luke 6:31) or as Jesus has done for you! Another example of this is Onesimus, whom Paul went to bat for with his boss, Philemon, in the epistle by that name.
If others have no faith in you, it’s hard for you to have faith in yourself; sometimes it’s even hard to have faith in the Lord. I know, I’ve been there. When you feel no one loves or trusts you, you think maybe God doesn’t either and you want to quit. But if someone shows you the love and faith of God, it inspires you to respond in a new effort to succeed! But even without such a show of confidence from others, you can find strength in knowing that God does forgive you and He will never leave or forsake you.
—David Brandt Berg
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