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The Rooster, the rock, and the resurrection

The women sorrowfully approached the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid. They had been devastated a couple of days earlier when Jesus, whom they all loved, was cruelly crucified. They were about to get another shock as they approached the tomb where his body had been laid. They didn’t know how, but the large stone sealing the tomb had been rolled away.

Then as they cautiously entered, they were confronted not by a corpse, but by an angel who proclaimed joyously: “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter.”

As they ran to tell the disciples about the resurrection of Jesus, they must have wondered why the angel had singled out Peter. But Peter knew why. On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus had told his disciples that they would all soon desert him, to which Peter boasted, “Even if all of them fall away on account of you, I never will.”

Jesus responded to Peter’s boast by telling him, “I tell you the truth, this very night before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times. To which Peter shot back, No way! Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”

Later that same night as Jesus was being tried for claiming that he truly was the Son of God, Peter had already twice failed to admit he was a follower of Jesus. As he cowered in the shadows a third time, someone accused him of being a follower of Jesus and the Bible says, “Then Peter began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’”

And as the final curses of denial left the mouth of Peter, it happened. At that very moment Jesus was being led out into the courtyard where Peter was and had likely heard what Peter had said. The Bible says, “Just as Peter was speaking, the rooster crowed. 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.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

What a disappointment Peter had become. Jesus had appointed him to be the leader of the disciples. He had even changed his name from Simon to Peter, which means Rock. After all, he was the only disciple to get out of the boat and walk on water to Jesus. He was the only disciple who drew a sword to fight the soldiers when they came for Jesus. But now, Peter had even deserted the disciples he was supposed to lead. That’s why Jesus needed to first meet with Peter.

The Bible is silent about what was said at that meeting. I can only imagine the tears Peter shed. But once Peter saw the resurrected Lord, he truly became “the Rock” who would fearlessly lead the early church. And he wasn’t the only one. Having seen their resurrected Lord, the other disciples were all willing to die as martyrs rather than renounce Jesus.

Having seen the resurrected Christ, Peter like most of the other disciples would die a martyr’s death because of his faith in Jesus. And like Jesus, Peter died by crucifixion. But tradition tells us that this once proud man insisted on being crucified upside down, not feeling worthy to be crucified like Jesus.


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