Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 8, 2018


Any old rooster can remind you


            When I retired recently, for the second time, several kind friends gave me gifts. One totally unexpected gift was a framed picture of a rooster. The woman who gave it to me said, “This picture reminded me of a fine sermon you preached not long ago.”

            The rooster picture now hangs in a prominent place in our kitchen. Over the years I have seen many different pictures of roosters hanging in the homes of our friends. Research the reason why and you find that the rooster has long been a symbol the rising sun and the beginning of a new day.

            In the Eastern culture, the rooster is found in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the year of the rooster are considered perfectionists, critical and egotistical but also practical and organized. I was born in the year of the monkey. Go figure!

            The Japanese revere the rooster and consider it a sacred animal. Its fighting ability makes it a symbol of courage in Japan and other Asian cultures.

            In both Portugal and France, the rooster is a national symbol. Kenya’s coat of arms includes an axe-wielding rooster. Folks in Portugal will tell you that for them the rooster symbolizes “The winning of justice when you fight for it.” That idea is explained by an ancient legend about a man falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. His release was credited to the crowing of a rooster which the man said proved his innocence.

            For several years I enjoyed eating at a restaurant in Opelika named “Cock of the Walk.” That phrase is used to describe a person who calls attention to himself by strutting. A woman once told me that when she viewed her father in his casket, she said to him, “Your strutting days are over, Daddy.”

            Growing up on a farm, I remember the rooster’s proud strut among the hens that provided our eggs. The rooster, of course, was simply doing what he was created to do – protect the hens and remind one and all that he was the boss of the barnyard.

            My sermonic reference to the rooster had to do with the night of Jesus’ betrayal by Judas. The scene was late night in a garden within the Mount of Olives. There Jesus fell on his knees and yielded to his crucifixion. There he prayed so earnestly that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. After this agonizing prayer, Jesus found his disciples asleep, even their leader, Peter. While Jesus was waking them up, Judas arrived, leading the soldiers who would arrest Jesus. This was that awful moment in history when Judas betrayed his Master with a kiss.

            Almost as awful is the description of Peter offered by Luke’s Gospel. Peter had boasted that he would die rather than allow Jesus to be crucified. But when the soldiers and Jewish officials seized Jesus and roughly led him out of the garden, Peter was silent. Luke pens these sad words: “Peter followed at a distance.”

            On that cold spring night Peter warmed himself by a fire in the courtyard while Jesus was being beaten and treated like a common criminal. When asked if he was not one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter angrily lied and insisted he did not even know Jesus. Earlier Jesus had told Peter, “Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.” Luke pens these sad words: “Just as he, Peter, was speaking, the rooster crowed.” 

            As the rooster was crowing, Peter looked across from the fire into the eyes of Jesus, the man he had just denied knowing, not once but three times. Luke pens these remarkable words: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” I say “remarkable” because what Peter saw in the eyes of Jesus was not anger but forgiving love. What Peter saw that moment was the amazing compassion of God for broken people.

            The love Peter saw in the eyes of Jesus broke his heart. Realizing what a mess he had made of his life, Peter fell to pieces. Luke pens these sad words: “And he went outside and wept bitterly.” But there is more to the story! A broken man weeping bitterly is not the end of the story!

            Later, when Peter had ceased weeping, in despair he went fishing. And while he was busy fishing, the risen Jesus was on the shore cooking breakfast for Peter and the other disciples. There on that beach, Jesus forgave Peter for his sins and redeemed a broken man.

            Peter became a new man! And the remarkable change in Peter’s life gives hope to every broken person in the world today. Look at it this way: Because Jesus forgave Peter, you can start over after making a mess of your life. I know that is true because he did that for me. At age 45, I was a mess, a weeping failure as a pastor, husband and father. But Jesus forgave me and helped me pick up the pieces and start over.

            Once you experience forgiveness for your sins, you can tell other broken people the good news that they too can start over again. That is what I have been telling hurting people for 67 years and that is what I plan to keep telling everyone who will listen!

            You can let every rooster you see remind you of the forgiving love of Jesus. Roosters are everywhere. They are on the walls of our homes, hanging in restaurants, on plates and cups and in our kitchens. Now and then you will see a rooster strutting in some barnyard, protecting his hens. If you live in the country, you may hear one waking you up at sunrise.

            Let any old rooster you may see remind you that, because Jesus forgave Peter,  brokenness is not fatal! You can take that to the bank! + + +