Before The Rooster Crows
As we're on pilgrimage in Jerusalem today, our Holy Land pilgrimage will take us to the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, a name derived from the Latin for "cock's crow."
The church is built on the site where the High Priest, Caiaphas, lived, and where Jesus was brought to be interrogated after he was betrayed.
Peter followed behind as Jesus was brought to Caiaphas bound and beaten, and he hung around outside in the courtyard of Caiaphas' house. It was there that he denied Jesus three times, just as Jesus predicted he would--"before the rooster crowed" at the dawn.
I've always been intrigued by how Peter had to escalate his denials. Read through the passage and see if you find it interesting:
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.
70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”
72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.”
74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”
Peter goes from simply saying, "I don't know what you're talking about," to actually cursing and swearing as he dramatically tries to convince everyone that he doesn't know Jesus. His denials escalate, becoming more and more emphatic and over the top.
Why did he do this?
Was he desperate? Was he that afraid of being found out, and taken into custody? Perhaps, but I think it was something else. I believe that what prompted his emphatic denials was a deep resentment, a helplessness that came with every passing moment that Jesus did nothing to respond to his accusers and abusers.
I wonder if Peter stood in that courtyard wondering, "Why doesn't he stop this? Why doesn't he do something? He raised the dead. He healed lepers. He quieted a storm. Surely he could summon angels and obliterate all of these terrible people with a command!"
"Unless... unless... he really isn't who he claimed to be."
How many times have my own denials of Jesus stemmed from my lack of faith in him--from the moments when I am wondering why he doesn't just fix whatever is wrong, fight back the evil that oppresses me, stem the tide of darkness around me?
This story calls me to deeper faithfulness. It gives me hope when I find my own weakness keeps me from courageously declaring my loyalty and trust in Jesus. May it do the same for you today and every day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.