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The Crowing of the Rooster

 

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"The Crowing of the Rooster"

 

 

Luke 22:60-62

60 Peter replied, "Man, I don't know what you're talking about!" Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: "Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times." 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

     Dear Friends in Christ,  

   Have you ever gotten caught red-handed doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing?  Maybe it was speeding and you can still see those flashing red lights in your rearview mirror and feel the pounding of your heart in your chest as must have happened to somebody who went zipping around me on the interstate a few weeks ago at about 8:30 in the evening.  It was dark and so this person could not see the state police car sitting in the median with its lights off, but it sure didn’t take long for those lights to come on once he passed me at a high rate of speed as he’d just been caught red-handed.  Or maybe you got caught red-handed cheating on a test or cheating on a diet or cheating on your boyfriend or girlfriend.  I’ll never forget the time I got caught red-handed and I hope as I share this story with you it will not diminish your respect for me.  But back when I was in about the 1st or 2nd grade, a girl in the neighborhood and I got our hands on a pack of cigarettes and our curiosity got the best of us so we decided we would smoke them.  Now before I go any further, I want you to understand that this girl who was a year younger than I was the daughter of the principal of our parochial school.  I, of course, was the son of the pastor.  And for a while, this became a regular practice of ours.  We would always do our smoking behind some evergreen bushes that lined the east side of our church.  Well, one warm summer morning we had snuck off to do our thing and we were puffing away like a couple of smoke stacks when all of a sudden my good neighbor buddy, Bill Felchner, who was a year older than I and who had secretly followed us there not knowing what we were up to, leaped from the entryway of the church right down into our midst and scared the living beejeebers out of us.  But he also caught us red-handed, cigarettes hanging out of our mouths.  He was just as surprised to see us doing what we were doing as we were surprised to see him.  Now he could have very easily allowed his curiosity to get the best of him and joined us at that point, but he didn’t.  Instead, he threatened to tell our parents what we were doing if we did not cease and desist immediately right then and there.  So we did.  You know, I’ve never been able to figure out why people have such a hard time breaking the smoking habit because I did it cold turkey that day and never smoked another cigarette since.

   Well, in our text for this morning we find a similar situation unfolding.  We find Peter getting caught red-handed.  It’s a story that is worthy of our consideration because I think in so many ways we can relate to what Peter did and what Peter went through that terrible night when he heard the rooster crow.  But first we need to set the stage.

   It’s the night before Jesus will be put to death.  He gathers with his disciples in an upper room in Jerusalem and celebrates the Passover with them which in turn leads to the institution of the Lord’s Supper.  At one point Jesus gets a very serious expression on his face and issues an unexpected warning to these men who had followed him so faithfully for the past 3 years.  He tells them that later that night they will all desert him and leave him alone with his enemies.  As the disciples look at one another with expressions of disbelief, Peter speaks up.  He assures Jesus that even though the others might do that, he would never do such a thing.  Why, he would be willing to go to prison for him.  He would even be willing to die for him if that became necessary.  But Jesus, with a heart full of love, puts a hand on Peter’s shoulder and says: “I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me 3 times.”

   Now fast forward to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus is betrayed by Judas, arrested by the Roman soldiers, and forcibly taken to stand trial before the high priest and the Jewish council.  And where are the disciples?  Matthew, who was one of them, tells us in words that must have been very difficult for him to write when he says: “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.”

   But apparently Peter had second thoughts, probably recalling his boastful claims that he has made to Jesus earlier that evening, so he followed at a distance and finally took his place around the fire in the courtyard of the high priest’s palace where Jesus was being tried.  And there it happened.  First one servant girl and then others began to take note of this stranger in their midst.  One by one they questioned him about his relationship with Jesus.  But each time Peter denied that relationship, even resorting to cursing and swearing the final time to punctuate his answers.  Then it happened.  A rooster crowed.  And conviction set in.  Matthew writes: “Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken.”

   What about you, my friends?  Have you ever heard the crowing of the rooster?  Have you ever found yourself doing something that you knew was displeasing to God and felt that sting of conviction in your heart?  If so, I want you to know that as much as that may have hurt, it was a good thing.  For that was the voice of the Holy Spirit trying to steer you clear of something that he knew you would later regret.

   Now when we feel that conviction in our hearts, we can react in one of two ways.  We can ignore it, which I would definitely not recommend, because if you ignore it long enough and often enough, you will eventually deaden your conscience and become completely desensitized to any future warnings that the Holy Spirit might send your way.

   The other reaction we can give is to heed the conviction we’re feeling in our hearts and follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.  That’s what Peter ultimately does, but before he reaches that point, something else happens.  As if the sound of the crowing rooster wasn’t enough, Luke tells us in our text: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”  Apparently Jesus was being led through the courtyard just as Peter was making his most vehement, vociferous, curse-laden denials of him and as Peter looked up there was Jesus looking straight at him.  I’ve thought about that look so many times.  What do you think Peter saw in the eyes of Jesus in that brief moment?  Did he see anger?  Did he see total disdain and disgust?  Did he see a look that in essence said, “See? I told you so.  I knew you’d blow it.  I knew you’d let me down.  I knew I couldn’t count on you”?  Had we been in Jesus’ shoes, that’s the kind of look we would have probably shot back at Peter.  But not Jesus.  Instead, I believe Peter saw intense hurt in the eyes of Christ.  He saw perhaps better than what anyone else has ever seen, and that is what our sins do to Jesus.

   We need to understand that, especially in our day and age where sin is taken so lightly by so many, including many who call themselves Christians.  George Barna and George Gallup continue to proclaim as loudly as they can that when they conduct their polls these days they see no appreciable difference anymore between the way the average Christian and the average non-Christian live their lives.  And you know as well as I do that it’s not the non-Christians who are starting to live more like we Christians are supposed to live.  Rather it’s the other way around.  Things like living together outside of marriage, engaging in premarital sex, lying, profanity, viewing pornography on the Internet, excessive drinking, disrespecting those in authority, infrequent or total lack of attendance at worship services – these and many other sins can regularly be found in the lives of God’s people today.

   Oh, how I pray that God would allow us to see what Peter saw in the eyes of Jesus that night so that we might understand the tremendous hurt and disappointment that our sins bring to his heart and be moved to do what Peter did.  And what exactly was that?  Our text says: “He went outside and wept bitterly.”  This is a different Peter we’re seeing here, isn’t it?  No longer the brash, bold, over-confident, self-perceived superstar of the disciples who proclaimed his unwavering loyalty to Jesus just a few hours before, Peter has been humbled.  Peter has been broken.  Peter has been brought to his knees and reduced to a sniffling, sobbing, sorrowful mess of humanity. 

   His tears proclaim two things.  First, remorse which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “a deep, torturing sense of guilt for one’s actions.”  I believe Judas felt the same once he came to his senses and realized what he had done when he betrayed Christ.  Unfortunately, Judas did not follow up his remorse with the second reaction Peter gave, and that is repentance.  And what exactly is repentance?  Contrary to what some people believe, repentance is more than just feeling sorry for what you’ve done wrong.  It also carries with it the idea of turning away from your sin, doing a spiritual about-face so that if you were headed this way in the direction of a particular sin, you turn around and head the opposite direction.  But it not only means turning away from your sin but also turning to Christ in faith and believing that through him your sin can be forgiven.  What if Judas had done that?  Do you think Jesus would have forgiven him?  Of course he would.  But Judas gave up.  He didn’t think there was any way he could be forgiven for what he’d done, so he threw in the towel and he went out and hanged himself.

    Aren’t you glad Peter didn’t do that, because if he had, we would be left with the idea that some sins are so great that they can never be forgiven by God.  And our Bibles would be without that beautiful story where Jesus meets with Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee a few weeks following his resurrection and uses that time to assure Peter that he’s been forgiven and that he can still be used by Jesus to feed his sheep and tend his lambs. 

   The same holds true for you, my friends.  No matter what you’ve done wrong in your life – maybe you denied Jesus like Peter did; maybe you even betrayed Jesus like Judas did; maybe you did something so shameful, so despicable that no one else but God himself knows about it – whatever the case, you need to know that there is still hope for you, that God can still use you.  You need to know that Jesus died on the cross to pay for that sin.  And if you believe that, and there is genuine remorse and repentance in your heart over that sin, you can take great comfort in the words of the Apostle Paul in Rom. 8:1 where he says: “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

   I’d like to close this sermon by just asking all of you to bow your heads in prayer.  Heb. 4:16 says: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  Let’s do that right now, shall we?

Father, we come before you at this time in a spirit of humility.  We admit that we don’t deserve this privilege of approaching the throne of the King of kings and Lord of lords, but as we’ve just heard, it is a throne of grace.  And we do so only because you have invited us to.  We bring no merits of our own to proudly display before you.  Instead, we bring only our sins – those times we have hurt you, those times we have betrayed you, those times we have stubbornly resisted you.  We’ve heard the crowing of the rooster this morning and conviction has pricked our hearts.  We have envisioned the look of Jesus penetrating to the very depths of our soul, revealing the hurt that our sins cause him.  We have felt intense sorrow and remorse in our hearts and long to turn our backs on our sins.  But we can’t do it alone.  We need help, Lord.  We need your help.  Let your Holy Spirit have free reign over our lives so that as we immerse ourselves in the shed blood of Jesus this morning we might leave this place more determined than ever to live as you want us to live, daily reflecting our gratitude for that perfect love that shines forth so clearly from that cross on Calvary’s hill.  We ask this in the name of him who hung on that cross for us, the One who alone deserves the title “The One and Only,” your Son and our Savior Jesus Christ.

      Amen.

 

 
 

 
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