Last week I had the opportunity to walk where Jesus walked. A trip to the Holy land of Israel is one I am sure not to forget. With every step I took and every place that I walked, a story could be said about what took place on the very ground beneath my feet. It truly brought to life many of the stories I have grown up hearing my whole life. Israel itself is truly the greatest testament of the historical Biblical story. But among the many beautiful heart-wrenching stories lays many of the stories that cause us to stop and think. Among them are stories of fierce war and gruesome death. Among them is the story of Judas’ betrayal, trading his loyalty to Christ for pockets full of cash. Among them is the story of Jesus, the son of God in human flesh, sacrificing himself to the people he created and loved to save them. These are the stories that the land can never unsee. It is one thing to come home with the feeling and understanding that you have walked where Jesus walked. But for me, one of the most memorable places I visited was not a place decorated as somewhere Jesus walked. For me, one of the most memorable places visited was a place another man walked: Peter the disciple. I walked where Peter walked, and it certainly wasn’t on the waters of Galilee. It was on the ground of Peter’s denial of Christ that I walked.
Many people are familiar with the story of Jesus at the last supper telling Peter that he will deny even knowing who Jesus is. Peter declares in Luke 22:33 that he is ready to follow Jesus down whatever path he may take. It says,
“But he replied, Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death”
To this, Jesus answers,
“I tell you Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
I can only imagine what Peter must have been feeling when he heard those words from Christ. After arguing with the other disciples over who of them was the greatest, to hear the prophesying words of Jesus telling him that he wouldn’t even admit to knowing him in the upcoming events surely had to humble and silence the confident Peter. As the story continues, Judas is soon to betray Jesus who is then arrested. Luke 22:54-62 says,
“Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, This man was with him. But he denied it. Woman, I don’t know him, he said. A little later someone else saw him and said, You also are one of them. Man, I am not! Peter replied. About an hour later another asserted, Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean. Peter replied, Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about! Just as he 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.”
He was supposed to be their king! He was supposed to be their savior! Peter’s whole world has just been striped away. Everything Jesus promised was seemingly lost as men carried him away to be humiliated and killed like a criminal. Everything Peter thought he knew became nothing but a leaf blown away with the wind, and his understanding of Christ’s plan even through something as tragic as this went away with it. What was his reaction to the world he knew crumbling around him? To get out. To distance himself from it. To run from it and deny any involvement he had with it.
Today, we see all the pages of the story. We can see the plan Jesus had even amidst his own death on the cross. We can see and understand that it was necessary for restoration. We can see the fulfillment of what Jesus once said. We see all this and see how faithless Peter was in his denial of Christ. But I can’t sit here and say that I would have done anything different. When I say I walked where Peter walked, I don’t mean I walked on the dirt and stones he did. When I walked where Peter walked, I felt what he felt, and denied as he denied. And you might look at me with confusion written on your face, but if we are all being honest with ourselves I think just about every one of us can also say that we have walked where Peter walked. We may not be denying that God is real or that he is in our hearts giving us salvation, but if I’m being honest, there are many times where I find myself denying that God has the power to get me through the struggles and obstacles set before me. I deny that he can use me and all my imperfections, and I deny that God has truly forgiven my mistake-ridden past. Before I can even continue, I hear the rooster crow and I’m reminded of the words Jesus said as he turns around and our eyes meet.
As we were about to leave the site commemorated to Peter’s denial of Christ, we heard the sound of the rooster crow and boy did it send a chill down my spine. And if this post serves as anything, I pray that it serves as a rooster crow to you. What is it that you are denying? Is it that you know who Jesus actually is so that others who don’t know him won’t ask you difficult questions or view you differently? Or is it some of the things I mentioned above concerning God’s ability and power? Whatever it may be, I hope and pray that this rooster crow brings you to a place that it brought Peter: to remembrance of the promises of Jesus Christ. And if it breaks you down as it did him, remember or rediscover the kind of man he turned into once the truth of Jesus was revealed to him. It’s not hidden; its in his Word begging to be read and known. If God can create in him a burning desire to serve him and use him for God’s glory, then surely he will for you as well.