I was camping with my family two summers ago on the west side of Mount Rainier National Park. Our campsite was nestled among towering pine trees, lush ferns, and a babbling brook. It was secluded and quiet… Until 4:00 the next morning. It turns out that across the babbling brook was a private property on which chickens were kept. And from what I could deduce from the sounds, the place had been taken over by a rogue band of roosters who were celebrating their coup with a feeding-pan of bootlegged whiskey and a wild-eyed frenzy of unceasing crowing. The poor owner must have been bound and gagged, tied to a chair in the kitchen.
A rooster can really get your attention. Forget all that baloney about crowing at sunrise.
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. (Luke 22:60-62)
The account of Peter’s denial of Jesus is told by all of the gospels, and in each, a rooster’s crow signals the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction. The stress of Jesus’ suffering radiates out to his disciples, and reveals the fissures in Peter’s foundation. We love Peter because he is so real-to-life. He’s emotional, brave, and committed to Jesus. He’s also vulnerable, fearful, and faithless. He’s like us.
Ever wonder why this episode about Peter is inserted into a big body of material that is otherwise exclusively about Jesus?
There’s a museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan: the "Museum of Failed Products." It’s consumer capitalism’s graveyard, products withdrawn from sale after a few weeks or months because almost nobody wanted to buy them.
Pepsi AM Breakfast Cola
Fortune Snookies, a line of fortune cookies for dogs
Clairol's “A Touch of Yogurt” shampoo
If the museum has a central message, it's that failure isn't a rarity; it's the norm. The failure rate for new ventures is as high as 90%. But failure is a fact—not 90%, but 100%. We have failed in many ways. As much as we may deny or hide it, it’s simply true. Can we just be honest?
It’s also a fact that other people’s failures have impacted our lives in a big way. Even people we love very much. But the failure is still very real, and we can be honest about that without it consuming us.
But the fact of failure is not the same as the judgment of failure. In John 21 Jesus acknowledges Peter’s failure, and it stings. But then he rehabilitates him with his love. But Peter’s failure isn’t Peter’s identity…and it’s not your identity either.
There are churches all over Europe that, instead of a cross, have a rooster perched on top of the roof. It’s a reminder of Peter and his failure. But even more than that, it’s a reminder that Peter’s weakness – and ours – is forgiven and taken care of. After all, roosters crow all the time.
Easter is not for people who have it all together, it’s for people worshiping the One who holds it all together.
Bob Jacobs is Pastor of Westminster Church, Rapid City. If you're interested in more of Bob's writings, check out his personal blog at www.brittlecrazyglass.wordpress.com.