Chapter Eight

When the Cock Crows!

Satan does not command a one-battalion army equipped with a single gun of limited range. This capable enemy is equipped with an arsenal of weapons capable of waging deadly warfare against any state of spiritual existence. He can attack the spiritually strong as effectively and powerfully as he can the spiritually weak. Failure to realize that truth invites serious spiritual crisis or spiritual disaster.

Every Christian knows the spiritually enslaved sinner is controlled and manipulated by Satan. Being trapped by his own sin, rebellion, and weakness, the sinner is powerless to deliver himself. In every sense, he is Satan's victim.

The spiritually weak have reason to fear Satan because he will exploit effectively their weaknesses. With precise, effective temptations, he will seek to deceive them. Unless they build a strong relationship with God, they will become Satan's victims.

What about the spiritually strong? Is the person who has grown through his weakness, overcome temptation, built a knowledgeable faith, and committed himself to service and worship beyond Satan's attack?

Consider a paradox. Ask a Christian if he is spiritually strong, and he will affirm his spiritual weakness. Ask him if his weaknesses are serious enough to cause him to fall, and he will be offended. If his inner voice spoke it would say, "I may have my weaknesses, but I am much too strong to fall." The paradox is this: most Christians feel strong and weak at the same moment. They hold feelings of strength and of insecurity at the same time. Again the question arises: "Do the spiritually strong have reason to fear Satan? If so, what should they fear?"

Peter: An Exceptional Success
Peter clearly illustrates the power of Satan to attack the spiritually strong. Peter deserves recognition as an exceptional person. He was a decisive man - an admirable quality. After working all night manually casting fishing nets from a boat (hard, sweat work!), he immediately accepted the invitation to follow Jesus. He did not say, "I am too tired to give your request proper thought and consideration." or, "This is the wrong moment to make a decision that important." He made an immediate decision to give up his livelihood and to commit to a transient life of discipleship indefinitely.

Peter was a wholehearted man. He always knew his mind and heart. Circumstances never made him doubt his responsibilities nor his commitments. Not once in Jesus' ministry was Peter less than 100% with Jesus.

He was a perspective man. He had the exceptional, uncommon qualities of truly seeing and hearing. In John 6 when a multitude of disciples deserted Jesus because of a hard teaching, Jesus asked the Twelve if they were leaving. Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). Of the Twelve, only Peter perceived that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16). While this was a revelation, Peter was perceptive enough to make the revelation possible.

Peter was a loyal man. His loyalty made the idea of Jesus being killed unthinkable and unacceptable. If necessary he would die trying to prevent Jesus' death. No one was more openly, devoutly, and totally committed to Jesus.

Jesus recognized and paid tribute to these admirable qualities. Peter was one of Jesus' inner three disciples, no small honor. He was with Jesus on every special occasion. Jesus gave him the keys of the kingdom (Matthew 16:19). Peter opened the kingdom to the Jews in Acts 2 and to the Gentiles in Acts 10.

Though Peter always spoke out, he was not a braggard. Nor was he an arrogant man who loved to do grandstanding. What he said he felt; what he felt, he felt with his whole being. His thoughts were rooted in the convictions of his heart. Certainly he said too much on occasions, and at times his conviction lacked sound judgment. Often he was sure he was right because he was certain Peter could not be wrong. Because he overestimated his knowledge and understanding, he even had the confidence to tell Jesus He was wrong. Yet, none of this was arrogance; it was wholehearted commitment which exceeded accurate knowledge and sound judgment.

Peter: An Exceptional Failure
Peter was a combination of notable successes and notable failures. His successes were many. He readily accepted discipleship and never looked back. He boldly stood by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane until Jesus made him put down the sword. After the ascension he was a courageous, masterful preacher. His courage in his arrests, trials, verbal defenses of Jesus, and abuse suffered deserves nothing but admiration.

Yet, Peter's failures were as notable as his successes. His denial of Jesus at the trials will never be forgotten. His complete disillusionment and return to his old occupation after the resurrection is always surprising.

Peter is a testimony to this truth: committed Christians are commonly a combination of notable successes and notable failures. People who do great things for God are capable of making great mistakes. How can that be?

The foundation of Peter's failures rested in Peter's faith. Read Matthew 16:21-23. This incident happened shortly after Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ. The One who Peter knew was God's Christ was saying the Jewish leaders were going to kill Him. Peter dogmatically contradicted Jesus' prediction be rebuking Jesus for that thought. Because he did not want that to happen, he would not let it happen.

Jesus who blessed Peter for his confession then called him Satan. Peter the confessor had become Peter the stumbling block. He had become a source of serious temptation to Jesus. The Greek root word for stumbling block means a bait stick for a trap. Peter was Satan's bait stick in a trap set for Jesus. Peter was appealing to Jesus' own desire not to die. Look at the contrast: in Matthew 16:16 the decisive Peter knew Jesus was the Christ; in 16:23 he was the bait stick in Satan's trap.

Read Matthew 26:31-35. Jesus said all the Twelve would be offended in Him that night and would flee like sheep when the shepherd is killed. Peter responded, "If all are offended, Lord, I will not be." Jesus replied, "You will deny me three times before the cock crows." Peter answered, "If it means dying with you, I will never deny you." All the disciples agreed they would not deny Jesus.

Mark 14:27-31 reveals the intensity of Peter's feelings in this incident. Verse 31 says Peter "exceedingly vehemently" declared he would not deny Jesus. The suggestion was so outrageous that he found it disgusting and unworthy.

Why did Peter so strongly deny the possibility? The weakness, the flaw in Peter's faith was this: Peter had enormous confidence, but his confidence was in Peter. It was not his relationship with Jesus but his personal strength which was the source of his confidence. Peter trusted Peter's commitment, Peter's loyalty, Peter's judgment, and Peter's strength. Peter had such confidence in Peter that he could not imagine a trial bigger than Peter could handle. He believed in Jesus with all his being, but he placed in confidence in himself.

In spite of Peter's confidence in himself, he denied Jesus. Judas came with the soldiers and betrayed Jesus. Jesus was arrested and bound as though he were a dangerous criminal. Peter tried to prevent it. He fought the professional soldiers of the temple guard. He gladly would have died defending Jesus. However, he could not stand defenseless and die with Jesus. When Peter could not depend on Peter, his faith crumbled and his courage failed. Like the rest, he ran into the night. When the trials began, a timid, scared, bewildered Peter quietly came to the proceedings. Others recognizing him resulted in three denials of Jesus, the last with cursing and swearing.

The cock crowed, and Jesus looked at him. Crushed, shattered, disillusioned with himself, and inwardly devastated, Peter fled into the night weeping bitterly. No man ever cried with greater anquish, frustration, and despair. Wonder how Peter felt the three days preceding the resurrection?

Facing the Inevitable
This is an undeniable truth: every Christian who dares to grow and to mature in Christ will inevitably face a moment when the cock crows for him. Satan's most powerful weapon against the spiritually strong is to attack their tendency to put confidence in themselves instead of in their relationship with the Lord. Today's Christian cannot be warned any more than Peter was. While Christian self-confidence is essential for spiritual success, it is equally essential that faith not be founded in that self-confidence. Ironically, the stronger a Christian becomes, the more easily he believes he is taking care of the Lord rather than the Lord is taking care of him. Inevitably every growing Christian will be tested in ways he cannot imagine. As a result, he will find himself doing things he never imagined he would do. As certainly as this will happen to every Christian, that certainly will the cock crow for every Christian.

When the cock crowed for Peter, he wept, retreated, and was broken. Later, he let the Lord put him back together and make a much stronger, more valuable servant. Today the question is not, "Will the cock crow at some point in my life?" It will. The real question is, "What will I do when the cock crows for me?" One can do many things. He can quit; become a permanent critic of the church; become a negative evaluator of all; never serve again; or be hurt, frustrated, and jealous. Or, he can let the Lord put his life back together, learn from the experience, and become a mightier servant.

No one will trust the Lord instead of himself because he is told to do so. That lesson must be learned through experience. Ironically, the Christian usually learns this lesson after he is convinced he is trusting the Lord. Had Peter been interviewed before entering the Garden of Gethsemane, and had he been asked if his faith was in Jesus or in Peter, he would have replied indignantly, "In Jesus, of course! Why do you think I follow Him, serve Him, and sacrifice for Him?" Yet, he actually believed in himself. Peter never knew that until the cock crowed.

There is a lot of Simon Peter in every strong Christian.


  1. What are the dangers of underestimating Satan's power as an enemy?
  2. Discuss the common paradox which exists in most Christians concerning their personal spiritual strength.
  3. Discuss the following admirable qualities in Peter's life:
    1. His decisiveness
    2. His wholeheartedness
    3. His perceptiveness
    4. His loyalty
    5. Which one of these is the most difficult to cultivate? Why?
  4. Was Peter a thoughtless braggard? Explain your answer.
  5. What were some of Peter's notable failures?
  6. Read the following passages and discuss Peter's attitude and confidence.
    1. Matthew 16:21-23
    2. Matthew 26:31-35
    3. Mark 14:27-31 (especially verse 31)
  7. Why did Peter strongly deny the possibility of his denying Jesus?
  8. Demonstrate the fact the Peter tried to keep his promise to remain with Jesus to death.
  9. What happened when Peter's confidence in himself proved insufficient?
  10. Discuss the effect the sound of the crowing cock had on Peter. Why did it affect Peter this way?
  11. What is Satan's most powerful weapon against the spiritually strong?
  12. Illustrate the fact that Peter's notable failure did not destroy Peter spiritually.

Thought Questions

  1. Why is self-confidence essential to spiritual success?
  2. When can self-confidence replace faith in the Lord? Does a Christian know this has happened to him?
  3. What is the most important lesson in this chapter?
transcribed by Donna Davis
Copyright © 1983, David Chadwell
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