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The Rooster Crowed Twice

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 26:58, 69–75; Mark 14:54, 66–72; John 18:15–18, 25–27

Peter’s denials of Jesus remind us of how carefully we all need to guard our relationship with the Lord. They also remind us of the wonderful grace of Christ, who stands ready to forgive us and restore us from even the worst of sins when we turn to Him in repentance.


As we set sail again in our Wisdom Journey, I want to slip back into that cold courtyard where Peter is warming himself by the fire. All four Gospels record this event, not because they want to bury Peter in disgrace, but because the Lord has a lot to teach us all about Peter’s failure. And I believe that is because Peter’s failure resembles our own at times.

Jesus has been arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, and Peter, along with John, have followed the soldiers into the high priest’s courtyard. John has some personal connections here and may have gained access to the house itself. But we know Peter is out in the courtyard, shivering in the night air.

Three scenes unfold here. The first scene is recorded for us beginning in Matthew 26:69:

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.”

Notice how she refers to Jesus, not as “Jesus the Messiah,” or “Jesus the miracle worker,” or even “Jesus the Rabbi,” but as “Jesus the Galilean.” We know from history that referring to someone as a “Galilean” was a slur—a put-down. Galileans were considered uneducated and backward, especially to the Jews who lived in Jerusalem. So, there is a mocking tone to her voice here as she effectively says, “So, you’re one of the disciples of that ignorant carpenter, aren’t you?” Verse 70 says, “But he denied it before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’”

Just hours earlier, Peter was ready to take on 600 soldiers, but now he is caught off guard by ridicule. There is a principle to learn in this: Being courageous in some big battle does not guarantee victory in a little battle. Peter was prepared for a big sword fight but not for a little servant girl!

The second scene takes place sometime later. John’s Gospel tells us that Peter was standing and warming himself by a charcoal fire (John 18:18). And at that point, Matthew’s Gospel adds this:

And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” (26:71-72)

These servant girls just will not leave Peter alone! You could render Peter’s words here, “I swear to you, I do not know him.”

There is another principle to learn at this point, and here it is: The safest sheep in the flock are those that are closest to the Shepherd. But Peter is moving in the other direction. Perhaps by now he has heard the yelling and the threatening of the religious leaders inside the house. The tension is mounting; so, Peter thinks, If I can put a little distance between myself and the Lord, maybe I’ll get out of here alive.

Maybe today you are under pressure because of your faith in Christ. Distancing yourself from Jesus might bring some temporary relief, but it will only set the stage for greater failure.

Now in this third scene—about an hour later, according to Luke 22:59—another accuser speaks up. John 18:26 tells us more specifically that this person was related to Malchus, the man whose ear Peter had lopped off in the garden. The news has evidently flown throughout Jerusalem. They have already put Peter’s mug shot up online. John records that this man says to Peter, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Then other people chime in, as Matthew records:

The bystanders . . . said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your [Galilean] accent betrays you.” Then [Peter] began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” (26:73-74)

He is cornered! But instead of confessing Jesus as his Master, Peter offers his strongest denial yet. Matthew tells us this includes repeated loud cursing and swearing, which indicates the crowd has turned on him and it is a yelling match.

Matthew then writes in verse 74, “And immediately the rooster crowed.” Now here is something many Christians are not aware of. Mark 14:72 says, “And immediately the rooster crowed a second time.”

The liberals love to jump on this as an error in the Bible. But as we have learned in our Wisdom Journey, combining the Gospel accounts gives us the fullest storyline. These eyewitnesses simply focused on different details.

The rooster crowed once after Peter’s first denial, as Mark 14:68 records. And by the way, this was God’s gracious reminder to Peter—and it was a reminder he ignored. Now, after Peter’s third denial, the rooster crows again here in verse 72. And as Mark states, this is exactly what Jesus had warned Peter: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”

In the Old Testament, two witnesses were needed to prove guilt. It is as if Jesus is allowing this rooster to provide a double witness to Peter’s failure.

Picture the scene at this point in the narrative: Inside, Jesus is being falsely accused, spit upon, beaten, and mocked. Outside, Peter, His closest disciple, is cursing and swearing that he does not know the Lord at all.

I will never forget reading of a young mother who rescued her little baby girl when their house caught on fire. She fought her way through the flames into her daughter’s room and pulled her to safety. In the process, her hands were terribly burned and her face permanently scarred.

That little girl grew up to become a popular teenager. When her senior class took a boat trip, her mother volunteered to come along and help with meals. That afternoon, the girls were on deck and began talking about the woman’s scarred hands and face. One girl asked, “Who in the world is that ugly woman?”

Not knowing her mother was near enough to hear, her own daughter said, “I don’t know!” You can just feel the sadness and pain that woman felt that day.

Luke writes that as soon as the rooster crowed, “the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Perhaps it was through an open window or doorway, but their eyes met at just that moment. What Peter saw in the eyes of the Lord was not hatred or anger but undoubtedly sadness and grief. Jesus, fully God yet fully man surely was crushed by Peter’s denial.

No doubt, Peter caught his breath, remembered the prophecy of his denial, and was immediately overwhelmed with guilt. Luke writes in verse 62, “He went out and wept bitterly.” You could translate that, “He sobbed uncontrollably.”

You might expect to never hear of Peter again. But there is one final principle to learn here: Great failure can be followed by gracious forgiveness.

Do you think you have sinned too greatly for Jesus to forgive you? Have you disappointed your Lord to the point that you think He does not love you anymore?

Well, let me remind you that after Jesus rose from the dead, Mark’s Gospel records in chapter 16 that an angel tells the women who have arrived to anoint the Lord’s body that He is risen. And then the angel instructs women, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you” (verse 7).

Why mention Peter specifically? Because he was the one man who thought Jesus would never want to see him again. The Lord was letting him know ahead of time that he was forgiven.

The same goes for you, beloved. If you have failed Him in some way, your failure is not fatal. He is willing to forgive you and restore you with open arms.

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