Each one was a disciple, one of the Twelve. Each one did the unthinkable on the same night and deeply regretted it. Similar behaviors they were. Outcomes for the two men? One chose life, the other death. Endings? One changed the world, and the other left the world early.
Peter blustered big about his commitment to Jesus, 'why, I would die for you!' but the Lord warned him that he would disown him three times before the rooster crowed twice. Jesus’ words rung in Peter’s ears the next morning. 'But, but' he stammered, 'he warned me before I had any idea of the vicious arrest that was about to happen… there were so many guards. And that was before they dragged Jesus to the high priest’s house and accused him of many things. All the other disciples ran away, but I did not. I followed Jesus at a close distance… I even stayed right outside Caiaphas’ house while they accused him. How could I know that they were going to demand my Lord’s death? And never could I imagine that Jesus would stand so powerless, so silent… well, never!'
Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, Peter denied knowing him. All these years later, both still confound.
Back to Mark's gospel, as he writes, “Meanwhile, [while they mocked Jesus in an illegal trial] Peter was in the courtyard below. One of the servant girls who worked for the high priest came by and noticed Peter warming himself at the fire. She looked at him closely and said, “You were one of those with Jesus of Nazareth.”
But Peter denied it. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, and he went out into the entryway. Just then, a rooster crowed.
When the servant girl saw him standing there, she began telling the others, “This man is definitely one of them!” But Peter denied it again.
A little later some of the other bystanders confronted Peter and said, “You must be one of them, because you are a Galilean.”
Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying—I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” And immediately the rooster crowed the second time.
Suddenly, Jesus’ words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” And he broke down and wept.”1
Segue. The last little chicks (pictured) I bought were so young, we did not know if they were hens or roosters—only time would tell. They would have to mature. And so it did, and so they did.
The three black silkies graduated to join four red hens and a lone silkie, Fluffy, in the coop. It was several more weeks before I heard a strange sound and thought ‘why is my hen crowing like a rooster?’ At first, I was unsure of what I heard, and then, after several more tries on the chicken’s part, the sound was recognizable and irrefutable—it was the cock-a-doodle-do of a rooster . . . or was it two?2 While roosters can crow throughout the day, it is the wee-hours-of-the-morning alarm that disturbs us.
I wonder, did Peter hear the first crow and think, ‘was that a rooster already?’ Years later he would recall that awful morning, ‘There seemed to be no place to even hide at that point, and scared as I was, I denied knowing Jesus again, and then the fateful second crow split the quiet. Instantly, I knew what I had done. Not once, not twice, but thrice I had denied my Lord. I wanted to wretch.'
When Judas recognized what his betrayal set in motion—the execution of Christ—he ran back to the evil men with whom he had conspired to return the blood money. Too late. They were not going back on their plan to see Jesus eliminated; He was just causing too much ruckus, gaining too many followers. Seeing what he had done—the consequence of his sin—Judas decided he could not go back to the disciples, but could not stand himself either, could not bear what he had been reduced to, and hung himself. Remorse? Judas had it. Repentance? Not so much.
On the other hand, Peter stayed close. His remorse and regret for his actions led him not just to feel remorse but to repent and be restored to God. [Note: there is a remorse that leads to despair and death, on the other hand, there is a remorse that leads to repentance and restoration with God.]
This narrative of Peter's denials is recorded in all four gospels. That which is repeated in Scripture is an emphasis added by God, something of which he wants us to take notice. Luke contains one detail the others omit. Luke 22:61 says that when the rooster crowed, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” Since this was the middle of the night, it must have happened just as the guards were taking Jesus from his trial before Caiaphas to his trial before the Sanhedrin. Evidently the guards were leading Jesus through the courtyard just as Peter denied Christ for the third time. At that moment Peter cursed, the rooster crowed, Peter looked up and saw Jesus looking directly at him. By this time Jesus’ face is black and blue, his eyes almost swollen shut, his cheeks bruised and covered with spittle. A trace of blood trickles from his lips. Even though it is after midnight, Peter can see him perfectly in the firelight.
Jesus doesn’t say a word. He looks at Peter who has denied him for the third time. Everything has happened just as he predicted.
It was a convicting look. “You said you did not know me. Look at me, Peter. Look at me. Do you not know me?”
It was a compassionate look. “Peter, how weak you are. Now you know that without me you can do nothing.”
It was a commissioning look. “Weep, Peter, and remember your words. Then go and strengthen your brothers.”3
Our Lord is always about our restoration to him. Conscience. How tender is yours? If you have done wrong, have you made it right with God or just tried to forget it? Guilt and shame destroy if left untended. When we seek God's forgiveness and his help in turning away from that which we did wrong, he is there. He is faithful...even when we are faithless.4
One other takeaway from these men, a choice that made a big difference in Judas and Peter: Peter chose to go home, he did not isolate himself. The impetuous disciple we love went back to the other disciples; going back to the people of God is always right. We are not meant to be Lone Rangers in our Christian faith, we are meant to be an active part in the family of God. And that is not just good, it is great.
'Need a Rescue? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSSc4KQDfEA
in the footsteps of Jesus, gospel of Mark, #49~
1 - Mark 14.66-72
2 - Turns out two of three new silkies were roosters and had to be rehired
4 - 2 Timothy 2.13