Matthew 26: 31-35, 69-75, John 21: 1-19
A Personal Paraphrase
Why don’t they shut up! Can’t they see how dangerous this is? A few more glanced his way, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away?” Peter looked up trying to keep his face in the shadows. Then enforcing his reply with an oath he said, “I don’t know the man!” At that moment a rooster crowed, and as Peter glanced to where they held Jesus, he saw Jesus looking straight back. He wasn’t smiling. Ouch, it was like a dagger to the heart.
For Peter, the crow of a rooster would never sound the same again. For all others it announced the beginning of day, but for him it felt like the onset of night. He had promised Jesus, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (Mt 26.35). And he himself believed it, he was zealous for Jesus, but it was a zeal that was untested. If you have been a believer more than a few years you will know that talk is cheap. Experienced believers make smaller claims because they know their limits. Internationally a crowing rooster means ‘wake up’ and Peter did, he suddenly saw his real condition. Have you been there? Have you claimed to be strong, when you were weak, did you think you were spiritual and then discover you were worldly?
Jesus was beaten, flogged and crucified; and as it continued Peter felt every blow for he knew his denial just added to the torture. Watching Jesus breathe his last was the worst; he would never be able to say he was sorry, and now he had to live with it.
One would have thought Jesus’ resurrection would make it easier, but it had to be a source of mixed feelings for Peter. The joy of resurrection was dampened with the uncomfortable realization that he had denied the risen. It was over; Peter’s hands and feet had witnessed miracles, Jesus would never do miracles through him again; or so he thought.
That night Peter was clearly agitated, “I’m going out to fish”. They were not going to let him go alone; “We’ll go with you”. It was a bad night on the lake, no fish, and Peter wasn’t talking. They all knew him well; a big heart, but awkward with words. As it was starting to get light they heard a distant voice on the shore, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” Great, no fish and now we get a buyer. “No!!!” their defiance rang across the water. But the stranger wasn’t put off, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some”. Nice, we are tired, it’s been a long night, and now we have a stranger telling us how to fish. But James thought the stranger had seen something on the other side; so Peter instructed them to throw the net again. And as they pulled it in it was jumping with silver Tilapia. Thomas was starring in disbelief when John said, “It is the Lord”. Peter shuddered. That’s all he needed to hear; Jesus had been on his mind the whole night and now it fuelled his adrenaline. He went overboard! John smiled at James; that was the Peter they knew; nothing subtle about him! He waded through the waist high water and as he climbed out, there was Jesus relaxed, focused, and turning Tilapia on hot coals. Jesus glanced up briefly acknowledging the drenched figure with some dry ones now arriving behind him, “Bring some of the fish you just caught”. Peter was eager; the others stood deep in thought as he ran back and dragged the net from the boat.
It was a quiet breakfast; a little uneasy. Some would like to have touched Jesus again; it was weird eating with the resurrected; and they had questions. But it was Jesus who broke the silence, “Simon son of John”. Oh dear, why so formal? “Do you love me more than these?”Jesus gestured toward the others there. Peter’s mind began to race; he remembered his statement, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Mt 26.33). Ouch, he wasn’t sure he could make that claim now, but he knew he loved Jesus. Looking at his toes hidden in the sand he mumbled, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” But Jesus wasn’t finished. He asked the question twice more. The third time was the most painful. A rooster did not crow, but their eyes met as on the night of the arrest, and this time their gaze stuck. Peter swallowed hard, his eyes searched the eyes of his Messiah, and from a deep place within he whispered, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus’ face broke into a grin; they both knew the connection was real; and as with the first two times he said “Feed my sheep”. Peter needed to hear that; he thought his role as the leading disciple was over, but he was still Jesus’ man, and a few days later he played the role to the full; leading 3000 to the one he loved.
The rooster crow was not the end, it was the beginning. It was the start of a ministry and the birth of a man. Wakeup calls can be shocking, but they are usually good. Do you hear the rooster? Perhaps it’s the beginning of good things.