Jesus lives with the reality that we have sinned against Him, and will sin against Him again. But He never quits us. He is more faithful than us.
Our sermon title today is “Before The Rooster Crows”. The Rooster has long been revered by many different cultures. Seen as courageous, masculine, and brave. Perhaps the most enduring quality attributed to the Rooster is his vigilance. All through the dark night he waits for the dawn and is the first to herald its coming each morning. Ever watchful, ever vigilant, the sound of the Rooster awakens people for the new day that has arrived.
In the Bible, perhaps the most famous rooster is Peter’s Rooster. Peter’s Rooster isn’t known necessarily for announcing a new day, but, rather a failure. In our passage Jesus told the disciples that they would all abandon Him. Peter refused to believe it. He could not fathom abandoning Jesus, and was quite emphatic about his loyalty. Jesus told him that before the Rooster crowed he – Peter – would personally deny knowing Him. Not once, not twice, but three times Peter would declare “I know him not.” All before the Rooster Crows.
Right before this they were in the upper Room where Jesus instituted the Lords’ Supper. They leave the upper room and make their way east of the city to the Mount of Olives. This conversation probably happened on the way there. After our passage Jesus prays in the Garden with his disciples and is at last arrested. So Jesus, where we find Him in our verses, is walking as a free man for the last time. He is walking to the place where his end will begin.
I find, as a pastor, some very practical points in this text for us. Four of them:
- The Prophecy of Scattering (26-27)
- The Prophecy of Resurrection (28)
- The Prophecy of Peter’s Denial (29-31)
#1: The PROPHECY of SCATTERING (26-27)
Read 26-27. So their bellies are full, they sang a hymn, and now they are on foot making their way to the Mount of Olives. The walk altogether is under an hour from the upper Room. As He does so often, Jesus teaches while He walks. Here He drops a 2nd bomb on them, “You will all fall away”.
The first bomb was during the Passover meal where he told them one of them would betray Him. They were utterly shocked. Now He says the rest of them will all fall away. This was what the prophecies said would happen. Jesus quotes a 500 year old prophecy from Zechariah 13:7, which says:
“Awake O sword against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones.”
There was a time when they would have gone to death with Him. In John 11, when Lazarus died, Jesus tells His disciples it is time to go back into Jerusalem and see Lazarus. The disciples knew the Jews in Jerusalem wanted to kill Jesus (8). But they decide to go back with Him and Thomas says, “Let us also go back too, that we may also die with Him.”
But now, it was time for the disciples to scatter. The prophecy said so. But why would they follow Him to death earlier yet now abandon Him? A couple thoughts come to mind. First, keep in mind that your strength yesterday doesn’t carry over to today. Everyday you have to decide to live for Christ and live by faith. Yesterday’s breakfast doesn’t do anything for you this morning.
Another thought is this: what Jesus was about to go through He had to go through alone. There was only one Lamb of God. Only one would suffer. And He would sufffer as one. There was not a man on earth who was going to stand with Jesus. Could it be any other way? It’s a picture of man’s abandonment of God since the Garden. Yet, at the same time, it’s a picture of God not abandoning man since the Garden. Here was God in the flesh, all alone, standing in for all mankind. The sword was awakened, it was lifted up, it was about to strike.
Betray vs Abandon. In light of the disciples abandoning Jesus have you ever found yourself asking: “What’s the difference between them and Judas?” One betrays, all the others fall away. Judas betrays, the 11 fall away. Both are bad. But 11 were restored and one was not. Why? What’s the difference between Betray and Fall Away?
Betray means to deliver up. To hand over. To turn on someone and become an actor against them; to facilitate putting them in danger.
I’d note a difference between falling away and betrayal. Falling away means the disciples were going to abandon Jesus so that He would be alone in His trial. They abandoned out of fear. Betrayal on the other hand means you turn around on your friend and become and actively put him in danger. Judas put Jesus in danger out of greed and resentment. The others wouldn’t go down with Him. Neither are noble by any stretch, but, the difference is worth noting.
#2: The PROPHECY of the RESURRECTION (28)
Then we see the Prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection, read verse 28. The sword was going to strike. The shepherd would be slayed. And yet, just as the prophecies told of the death of the shepherd, so too they speak of the resurrection of the shepherd. A thousand years prior to Jesus, David wrote a great Messianic Psalm, where the Messiah was speaking to God, where God the Son was speaking to God the Father:
You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay”
And then Isaiah 53 says of the slaughtered lamb of God,
“It was the Lord’s will to crush Him and to make Him suffer…and after the suffering of His soul He will see the light of life…”
Taking from the language of Zechariah 13: The man close to God, who was struck down, would rise and be brought close to God again.
Those were prophecies in the OT. Now here was Jesus, the eternal God come in the flesh, declaring matter of factly “After I rise”. There was no uncertainty. And Jesus didn’t “believe” the prophecies. Not like we are supposed to. Jesus knew they were going to come true, and He knew His resurrection was guaranteed because He is the guarantor behind all prophecy. “No man takes my life from me” he said in John 10. “I lay it down on my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and, I have authority to take it up again.” Wow.
#3: The PROPHECY of PETER’s DENIAL (29-31)
Peter won’t have anything to do with abandoning Jesus. He may not be able to control Jesus and keep him from going to the cross, but, Peter could control himself. And he wasn’t about to leave Jesus alone and quit Him. If only it were that simple. Jesus informs Peter, right after Peter boldly declares his loyalty to Jesus even unto death, that merely hours from those words Peter would deny ever even knowing Jesus. Three times. That was not possible as far as Peter was concerned.
A couple years ago in a Men’s Night we explored the failure of Peter that night. Peter’s denial of Jesus didn’t happen out of the blue, suddenly. Before denying Jesus, Peter was already stumbling in smaller ways. Not correcting those ways ultimately made him weak when his moment of temptation finally came. What I’m saying is you can see a progression of smaller failures that finally led to the big failure in Peter’s life.
- We saw in chapter 8 that Peter had his own PURPOSE for Jesus. Inspired by Satan, he was trying to PREVENT Jesus from going to the cross. Peter was not submitted to the plans of God – which included Jesus going to the cross. He was self-willed in that he wanted a Jesus that fit Peter’s ideas of a Messiah. He never got over that, Peter just never brought it up again because Jesus called him Satan, which implies Satan was working around Peter. Remember Satan asked Jesus to sift Peter, and Jesus gave him permission.
- Then, we see Peter’s PRIDE when he self-confidently declared he would follow Jesus to death. His PRIDE is exposed even more in verse 29 when he says “Even if all of them fall away, I will not.” He compared himself to the other disciples, and saw himself as better than them. In a more humble frame of mind he may have turned to prayer for strength that it wouldn’t happen – but, Peter did not yet know how to live in God’s strength instead of his own.
- Then in the next section Peter fails to PRAY with Jesus. He sleeps. His spiritual weakness is showing even more, and, its getting even worse. Prayer is how you stay strong spiritually. It keeps you sensitive to God’s will and more serious about carrying it out; it makes you able to detect better what is righteous from what is evil; it makes you stronger in the face of evil. Full of pride and prayerless, Peter was spiritually weak, and vulnerable.
- Then we’ll see Peter ABANDONS Jesus. He doesn’t deny him, but he abandons him. He wasn’t with Jesus mentally when Jesus talked about going to the cross. He wasn’t with Jesus in prayer. Now he wasn’t with Jesus when the arrest came. Even though Peter was always with Jesus physically, there has always been distance between Peter and Jesus. Now that reality was manifesting
- Then finally Peter would DENY Jesus. He would pretend he never even knew his Lord.
- The Fellowship of Loneliness. Jesus’ loneliness is growing. Judas is gone and finally acting out his treachery. The disciples won’t pray with Him. They’re going to abandon Him when He’s arrested in a couple hours. The Jewish and Gentile leaders will sentence Him to death. And finally, on the cross, His Father will “turn His face away”, “Eloi, Eloi, Lamasabachthani! My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” If you are going to follow Jesus you are going to go through seasons of loneliness. If you’re single. If you’re in a troubled marriage. If COVID keeps you from school and you can’t see your friends much, or, if you just don’t seem to have any friends. If you’re the only Christian at work. If you’re in a nursing home. If you’re in ministry. If you’re a pastor’s wife. We all go through loneliness in one way, shape of form in life. Jesus understands loneliness. We can relate to Jesus in loneliness, and find companionship with Him through that. Which brings out another, similar point: in our loneliness, we are not alone. He is there. Our seasons of loneliness are times to learn just how there He really is. Jesus may bring us into loneliness to remove everyone else, so that we see Him in a newer and deeper way than we ever have before.
- See past right now to what is coming. Jesus didn’t just see the suffering He was about to go through, He saw beyond that suffering. “But, AFTER I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Do not underestimate the unmatched stress load Jesus endured. He sweat drops of blood thinking about it. But Jesus never lost sight for one moment that His suffering would end, it would be over, and then great things would happen on the other side. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,” Hebrews 12:2 says, “the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus knew He had to suffer, and, He knew He would enter glory when it was over. He always spoke about leaving this world, returning to His Father, going back to where He came from. Jesus gives us an example in our own suffering: We must see beyond whatever we go through right now, on earth, in this life, to the great promises of God that await us. Romans 8:18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Keep looking into God’s Word to keep seeing what is coming.
- Jesus is more faithful than us. He knows that Peter is going to fail in the future. And He knows how we are going to fail too. Jesus lives with the reality that we have sinned against Him, and will sin against Him again. But He never quits us. He is more faithful than us. Some people get all twisted up if we talk like that because they assume that kind of talk means people can go and sin and do whatever they want and Jesus will still be faithful. But that person underestimates first of all the largesse of God’s grace and that while some people might think that way, not everyone does. For a lot of people, who really want to live worthy of Jesus, knowing that He is faithful when they falter, is a great comfort, and, a great motivation to live even better for Him. For those people, Jesus is real, and it grieves them to know the ways they displease Jesus. And they don’t want to. See the difference? Jesus is more faithful than us. He will deal with anyone who “abuses” that grace. But for others, such grace and faithfulness from Jesus is of great encouragement.
- We are weak. Jesus knows it. That’s the previous point. But, Christian growth means we start to know it too. Peter didn’t yet know it. Like many of us, he had to go through painful lessons to learn that truth. Here’s the rub: Peter’s greatest personality strength was his loyalty. And that is where Satan struck. And that is where Peter failed. Your greatest strength apart from Christ will be blown away like a dandelion by your enemy. The first step in realizing the strength of God is realizing you are not strong.
I remember a Men’s Night not too long ago. We had about 15 guys there, ages ranging from 20 to 80. I love having all the ages mixed together. One thing that was said was that the mark of a young man maturing is his coming to terms with his limitations. One of the greatest and most blessed lessons God takes us through is teaching us that we are not as great as we tend to estimate ourselves to be. It is painful, but, when that results in shifting faith from ourselves to God, it is arguably the greatest blessing a man can ever experience.
Another caution related to this is: don’t let your pride get you into comparing yourself to others. “Even if they all fall away Jesus, I never will.” were Peter’s words. Notice that Peter felt himself to be on a higher level than they were. Perhaps he was. “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12).
- Failure can bring fruit. There are important lessons that we can only learn in failure. Peter would learn those lessons. How do we go through failure? Do we shrink back from things because we’re afraid of failure? Do we despair when we experience failure? Do we bitterly question God? Or do we seek God, and, seek His purpose for us in our failure? Do we see what is happening as something God is using to purify and refine us in the faith? If we are humble, God can use any failure we experience to make us better in the faith. Consider for example Daniel 11:35 says, “Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless….” Or think of King David’s failure – adultery compounded by the sin of murder. That failure ultimately resulted in a greater worship of God when David discovered the depth of God’s grace and mercy even when he sinned like that. Peter’s failure would be legendary. But, it would teach Him about the depth of mercy and love Christ had for him. And later in his life, Peter would teach that lesson to someone else who failed: John Mark.
CONCLUSION: SILENT REFLECTION
What take-aways might God be laying on your heart today?