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Matthew 26: 32-35 | Matthew 26: 57-58 | Matthew 26: 69-75
Did you hear it? That rooster. Did it wake you? That rooster! I can still hear it. There! Is that it again? No, no, no. I’m fine. I guess it just startled me. I’ve been up all night. I didn’t realize the morning was so near. But it’s dark. What hour is it? So late. It’s cold out here. What are you doing in the street? Yes, I’m from Galilee. Why does everyone have to make such a big deal out of the obvious? I’m sorry. It’s not your fault.
I’m a fisherman. I’ve heard roosters crow before, as far back as I can remember. We would fish all night. We would hear the roosters at daybreak when it was time to bring our catch to shore. When I was just a boy and had fallen asleep in the boat, I would hear the roosters crowing and wake to hear the far-off voices of my father and the others discussing the night’s catch. He would look across to me in the gray light and our eyes would meet.
Rooster music meant an end to the night and cold. It meant home and warmth and food. But not after tonight. I have been with Jesus. They have Him now in Caiaphas’ dungeon, I suppose. I’m afraid. Now the Romans are in with them.
The Master warned me. He said Satan would sift me like a farmer sifting wheat. But Jesus said He prayed for me that my faith would not completely fail. He told us He was going to die. I said, “No, I would die for Him.” What brave words. Now I am the voice of denial. Earlier tonight I tried to defend Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. We awoke suddenly. There were torches, soldiers, a mob with clubs. I had a short sword and I jumped to my feet swinging. I had a fair shot at one of them, too, but he moved his head at the last instant and all I got was his ear. Jesus rebuked me, told me to put up the sword. The soldier who grabbed me from behind made sure I did. Then it was all noise and confusion. They took Him and nearly trampled us. Even a garden doesn’t offer many soft places to land in the dark. By the time we collected ourselves, they were gone.
John and I followed, a ways back. They brought Him into the city. We made our way through the dark streets, staying a safe distance behind the soldiers. All the way across town. We soon guessed they were bringing Him here to the palace of the high priest. But for what? The council couldn’t meet at night. The priests and scribes and temple guard went through the gate into the courtyard. The Roman centurion posted a guard and led away the rest of the soldiers. We were stopped just inside the arched passage at the outside gate. But the portress knew John. I could tell she had her doubts about me, but she let us in through the outer gate and then into the inner courtyard. We were inside the high priest’s house. John made his way into the hall where a large crowd was assembled. I had never been in a house like that before. I stayed in the courtyard with the servants. I hoped no one would question me. I did not know what I should be doing or how to answer. And there was a chance that someone might recognize me. What if one of the temple guards identified me as the man with the sword? What if the servant whose ear I cut off saw me and accused me?
Then my heart froze. There he was! My victim! But he turned his head, and I saw a healthy ear, right where it should be. I must have mistaken him in the firelight. Perhaps I would be safe if I stayed in the shadows. Everything was fine until the young portress came over from the gate to the fire. Her eye picked me out of the shadows and she said, “You’re one of this man’s disciples, aren’t you?” Everyone in the circle looked at me. I just couldn’t say yes. “Not me! I’m not a follower of Jesus.” I turned away from her, wishing she would disappear. She stayed a while, speaking in a low voice to one of her friends and pointing at me. The portress left the fire, but soon her friend spoke up. “This fellow is one of them. He was with Jesus the Nazarene.” Other voices rose to agree, accusing me of being one of Jesus’ followers. Anger and shame rose in me like hot poison. I said, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Maybe that satisfied them. They fell back to their gossip, buzzing about the events of the night. Things settled down. I hoped I was finished with them. Two denials surely would be enough to save my neck.
The night dragged on. What was happening in the hall? I strained to hear. Evidently the council had convened after all. What were they doing? I moved closer to the hall, shifting for a position where I could see. I had no idea where John was. I finally found a place where I could see Jesus Himself, standing before the council, His head bowed, completely still, surrounded by noise and confusion.
I asked the man next to me what was happening. He turned and said, “So, you’re a Galilean, too, aren’t you?” Several faces turned our way. I recognized two or three who had been standing at the fire. “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Angry and excited, I began to call curses down on myself. I swore that I never knew Jesus.
The words caught in my throat. From where Jesus stood before the council, He looked out into the courtyard and in the yellow light our eyes met. It was just as He predicted. He told me that I would deny Him three times. I said it would never happen. Peter, the rock. The Master’s faithful follower and chief defender. I had become the voice of denial. The crowing of the cock told me what I really was. I am disgraced. The others will despise me. My name will become a curse.
I stumbled to the gate. The portress let me out, all the warmth, company and light behind me. So late. It is so cold out here. I failed Him. Was chief among the Twelve, and I failed Him. Three times over I failed Him. How could I fail one whom I have loved so? Now I wonder do I really love Him? Can real love produce this kind of failure? But I do love Him. Don’t I? If I loved Him, I would keep His word. I would not fail. Do I even love Him? The voice of the rooster testifies against me. My own words testify against me. My own heart condemns me. I was a leader among the Twelve. I confessed Him on the mountain, but I denied Him in the night. Hereafter I will be known only as the voice of denial.
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