When my parents entered their latter years, they took up a new hobby: keeping chickens. At the height of their enthusiasm, they tended 21 chickens in a hen house affectionately dubbed the Taj Mah’Omelette—20 chickens, that is, and one noisy rooster. To be a houseguest during this season was to have, as they say, a rude awakening—albeit one followed by a magnificent breakfast.
The briefest Google search confirmed what I suspected to be true from my own brief exposure to the Taj Mah’Omelette: Roosters crow and crow. They crow every morning, and they crow all morning. They crow to announce another day, but they continue crowing as long as it is called “today.” We just notice it more in the morning because roosters are particularly adamant when they wake up.
Roosters populate ancient fables and mythologies, and they make a notable appearance in the Bible. All four Gospels record Peter’s famous three-time betrayal of Jesus punctuated by the crowing of a rooster, just as Jesus had prophesied. All three synoptic Gospels say Peter “wept bitterly” at the sound.
Our senses are powerful memory holders. The smell of mothballs transports me to my grandparents’ attic where I played dress-up. The taste of pound cake transports me to my mother’s kitchen where I licked batter from a wooden spoon. Sounds, too, attach themselves to memories. From childhood, an old screen door banging shut is the sound of homecoming to me.
I imagine what kind of memory the rooster’s crow evoked for Peter. Every dawn after that first terrible morning of betrayal, the proclamation of his bitter guilt would have rung afresh in his ears. Carried in the crowing would have been the memory of his colossal failure. By nighttime perhaps he would have pushed down the nausea enough to get some sleep. That feathered fiend would at last rest his infernal lungs.
And there was evening, and there was morning. Cock-a-doodle-doo. Guilt for breakfast, again.
Days pass. Jesus dies, is buried, is resurrected. Thomas receives release from his doubts, but Peter’s doubts run a different direction. With each dawn, Peter’s disqualification clamors afresh in his ears. Whatever his relationship had been with Jesus, whatever his calling, it appears to be finished.
Time to get back to work. As another sunset bleeds across the horizon, he trades the unreliable prospect of sleep for a reliable task. “I’m going out to fish,” he announces to his companions (John 21:3). They fish all night and catch nothing. But just as day is breaking, a sound ripples across the water. A voice. The announcement of a miracle: Try the other side of the boat.
Recognition dawns. As the others haul in fish as fast as they can, Peter hurls himself into the sea and thrashes toward shore. There sits Jesus, serving up a fresh breakfast menu: Restoration. Forgiveness. It is finished.
I wonder—as the two conversed, as Jesus made whole what was broken—could Peter hear in the surrounding countryside the sound of roosters shaking off their slumber? I can’t say. But sounds attach themselves to memories, and I suspect that every morning thereafter, Peter affixed a new memory to that clarion call. The sound of homecoming. Fear not. Glad tidings.
Each day, the sound that had announced new-morning guilt now spoke a better word. All hail the rooster, that fine-feathered herald of forgiveness, that nitwitted megaphone of new-morning mercies.
Against all logic, Peter finds himself again seated at the Lord’s table. And so do we. Every sin is a denial of Christ. And frankly, even in our most incapacitating moments of guilt, we have only begun to apprehend the seriousness of our offense.
We break fellowship, yet inexplicably we find it restored through no agency of our own. A rude awakening followed by a magnificent breakfast.
And what a feast it is. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. What memory of past guilt announces itself to you at every turn? Friend, hear the annunciation of your emancipation: Morning has broken, and with it, fresh mercy. The night is far gone, the day is at hand.
Though we denied him, he yet beckons us to carry forward the good work.
Cock-a-doodle-doo. Good morning. Amen.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.