In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) there is a familiar account of Jesus’ prophecy that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crows. This statement from our Lord came on the heels of Peter’s rather bold assertion that should everyone else leave our Lord in the midst of the upcoming arrest, trial, and eminent death, he alone would be at Christ’s side. This fact makes the prophecy all the more striking, yet within this tragic denial from Peter there is a universal application and a warning to all the children of God.
In Mark 14:29-31 we read of the prophecy
“29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.”
In Mark 14:66-72 we read of the fulfillment of our Lord’s prophecy and the tragic fall of Peter
“66 And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway[h] and the rooster crowed. 69 And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.”
To allow our application to percolate directly from the passage, let’s summarize the events surrounding Peter’s denial. First, Peter’s pride-filled statement, albeit in an attempt to take a righteous, bold stand. This was followed quickly and sharply by the reproof from Jesus in the form of the prophecy of denial. Again we hear from Peter as he doubles-down his assertion of faithfulness. As the events of the chapter unfold, we come to the fulfillment of the prophecy, cited above, wherein we find Peter’s first confrontation with his accuser, a servant girl, followed by his first denial, which was followed by the rooster’s first crow. Then, the servant girl again confronts him and Peter again denies his relationship with Christ. In Peter’s third denial, we again find him doubling-down, not in faithfulness, but in his denial of Christ, surely meant to draw attention to his earlier emphatic statement that he alone would never leave the Lord, even if all of the other disciples did.
Here is where we may springboard into our application for the Christian life. Using Peter as an example, and most often he is a mirror for our own lives, we find that despite his good intentions to take a bold stand for Christ, his words were fueled by pride. Peter’s confidence had little to nothing to do with the Spirit’s preserving grace that would keep him faithful to the end, but everything to do with his own ability and will-power to stand faithful in the moment of crisis. How often is self-confidence and self-assurance the spring of undoing in our own lives? Surely we may look to the wisdom of the Proverb that states,
“Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
This unspiritual condition of the heart should be warning enough, but unfortunately it wasn’t for Peter, and rarely is for us. For us, and for Peter, the Word of God speaks clearly and warns us of the dangers of the prideful heart, however like Peter we too often ignore this rebuke and a subsequent opportunity to sin usually follows nearby.
Here is where the rooster crowed.
When the temptation to sin and deny the Lord was met with the opportunity of confrontation from the servant girl, the rooster crowed . This was another warning, albeit now clear and present, that Peter was entering into troubled waters. His mind was so clouded now that he was unable to recall the Word of the Lord and His prophecy against him. Again, this is too often the case with us. God may or may not use a “rooster” to call out our sin or the impending danger of it, but He certainly does use other means that are equally effective. It may be the exhortation of a fellow brother or sister in Christ or it may be something more subtle to call our minds to the Word of God. However, all too often one of the first warning signs that God gives us, the crowing rooster so to speak, is the absence of prayer. Few things crow louder in the Christian life to either warn of the presence of sin in the heart or the pending arrival of sin than an absence of prayer. If this be our condition, we may be assured that an opportunity to sin will soon follow.
For Peter, and as is often the case for us, this crow from the rooster, by whatever means God may use, may not alert us to our clear and present danger. We too may be foggy minded in a cloud of Christian complacency and neglect of duty such that we are unable to recognize the warning and draw our minds to remember the Word of God. God may sometimes be pleased to alert us yet again to the danger of our condition, but in His wisdom He may see it more fit to allow us a complete fall into sin for the purpose of humbling us, as in the case of Peter.
Peter’s prideful fall stands as a sharp reminder than even those most closest to the Lord are capable of allowing their hearts to deceive them, leading to a fall into some scandalous sin. We ought to be careful in judging him too strictly, and we ought also be careful not to speak too loudly or critically of those brothers and sisters who we may observe falling into sin, lest we appear like Peter again and declare ourselves above reproach, that even if all others fall away, we will stand firm. May we weep for those who we see wrapped in the cords of sin, speak words of exhortation to them when necessary, but most of all may we be inclined to pray for them, that God may grant them repentance.
Before the rooster crows, let us be diligent in spiritual duties from a humble heart to seek the Lord daily for the grace that we need. May we delight in a continual posture of prayer before the Lord, meditation on His word, and communion with fellow believers. Should the absence of this spiritual mindedness be present in our lives, may we heed the first crow of the rooster before we find ourselves fallen into sin and the second crow of God’s chastising rod be upon us.
Soli Deo Gloria