Today’s Reading: Mark 14
A man who felt convicted for lying on his last tax return wrote this letter to the IRS:
Dear IRS: Enclosed you will find a check for $150. I cheated on my income tax return last year and have not been able to sleep ever since. If I still have trouble sleeping, I will send you the rest.
His problem: he is waiting for more sleepless nights to bring closure. He is not fixing it on the first go around. That first sleepless night should have been a signal.
In today’s reading, we see the importance of handling things in the first go around. And it has to do with Peter and a crowing rooster.
Let me read to you about this dreadful Thursday night:
Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, because it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter said to Him, “Even though all may fall away, yet I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you, that this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny me three times.” But Peter kept saying insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing also. (Mark 14:27-31)
And between verses 66-71 we read that Peter denied Jesus three times. One of them being with him cursing and swearing to make sure the people knew he was not a disciple.
And then the fulfillment of what Jesus said to Peter came to him: “Immediately a rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, ‘Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’ And he began to weep” (verse 72).
Prominent American Methodist minister Halford Luccock said: “In Christian experience, great living begins in tears. It is God’s starting point. When Peter broke down and wept, all pride, of which he had much, and all self-sufficiency and self-trust dropped away from him.”
Listen to Jesus’ warning again in verse 30—“Before a rooster crows twice.” Then in verse 72, after Peter’s third denial, it says, “A rooster crowed a second time” and at that second crowing, Peter began to weep because he remembered what Jesus had said.
Sometimes we don’t take seriously the Word of God until it is finally fulfilled. That is a dangerous way to live.
I had a rooster that lived next to me in Detroit, right in the heart of the inner city. It was the craziest thing. My neighbors had chickens and a rooster that perched in a tree. That rooster would crow every morning at 5 a.m. and every morning, one of my roommates would say, “Oh, Jesus, don’t let me deny You today.”
Amazing how that rooster reminded him of that story. That rooster’s crow made Peter recall every word of the Master. No sooner had he completed his third denial then the rooster crowed. So my question to Peter: What were you thinking at rooster crow #1?
We read about #2, which was after the full denial. But what about the first crow? What went through Peter’s mind?
Obviously he did not heed it. It does not seem that it slowed him down. We don’t have a verse that shows Peter thinking, Hmm, this can’t be a coincidence. . . . The Rabbi said something along these lines . . . that I would deny Him and that the signal would be a rooster’s crow.
But nothing. No brake lights for Peter. This was not some new convert. This was a disciple trained by Jesus Himself.
It just goes to show the power of fear, sin, and compromise. As James S. Stewart said in The Strong Name:
It might seem natural to suppose that every time a man sins he would know a little more about sin, its nature and its methods. Actually the exact reverse is true. Every time he sins he is making himself less capable of realizing what sin is, less likely to recognize that he is, in fact, a sinner; for the ugly thing (and this, I feel sure, has never been sufficiently grasped), for the really diabolical thing about sin is that it perverts human judgment.
Hence every time any of us sins, we are making it not more but less probable for us to appreciate what sin is, and therefore not more but less likely that we shall feel there is anything to be forgiven. Every time I reject some voice in conscience, I am making it certain that next time that voice is going to speak not more but less imperiously and convincingly.
I think crow #1 was the shout from God to say, Put on the brakes. God’s Word is true. Stop here and don’t go any further!
To hear crow #1 is the canon ball over the bow of the boat. It shouts that God is right!
Listen to him. No one jumps to #2 without first receiving a #1 warning.
There are nine words in the Greek language for sin. But the one that always catches my attention is the trespass. Have you ever violated a “no trespassing” sign? You have to do a lot to get by it. You have to climb through barbed wire. Climb over a fence. Go by the blaring sign.
Trespass means you have to really work to sin. God is active in wanting to warn and protect you.
Though you may not be as fortunate as I was to live next to a rooster in Detroit, it does not mean you don’t get the same effect. Let me give you a rooster crow that you will be sure not to miss: It is the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
A conviction does not stop you from doing anything, it just keeps you from enjoying it. I love this young boy’s definition of conviction: “Something that makes you tell your mother before your sister does.”
The Holy Spirit begins to bring a feeling inside of us that something is not right. This is a crow #1 protection. Before a failure turns into a fall, He will convict us.
The old churches built in America some hundreds of years ago were built with the steeple that had weather cocks on them. They were put there to remind the people that even Peter, the first among the apostles, fell into the deep grievous sin of pride and denied his Lord.
I wonder what church members and boards would say today if a pastor put the rooster back on the church so folks would not backslide. We might hear:
“That’s so negative!”
“Why remind us of failure and sin?”
“You are so judgmental!”
But I would be thinking, God is always right, listen to Him.