In the Holy Land, it seems there’s a church to commemorate just about every event from Jesus’ life. Yet I was still a little surprised when we discovered one dedicated to Peter’s denial and rejection of Jesus. The Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (the word galli-cantu is Latin for “cock crow”) is built over the ruins of the house of Caiaphas, the high priest of Jerusalem at that time. It is the place where Jesus was condemned to death by the chief priests and elders, and where He spent the night imprisoned in the underground Pit. In its mosaics and other sacred art, this church reminds its visitors of how Peter denied Jesus three times “before the cock crowed” as he warmed himself in the outer courtyard. Even the roof is adorned with a rooster!
Yet the question remains, why would Peter’s denial of Christ – undoubtedly a moment of weakness for the apostle – be something we’d want to remember, much less commemorate by building a church? Of course, it reminds us of our own sinfulness – of the times that we fail in our Christian walk and turn our backs on the Lord. But if that’s all we glean from this incident then we’re really missing the point.
It is inevitable that as disciples, we will all have doubts and sometimes even fail miserably. Although Peter denied Christ three times in one day, that wasn’t the end of the story. He went on to feel remorse and regret, and what he learned about his failure that night inspired him to follow Christ in all things – even death upon a cross.1
We might wonder how Jesus could trust Peter after he had turned away from Him on that night. But God doesn’t see us the way men do. He doesn’t give us what we deserve or “repay us according to our faults,”2 and isn’t that a good thing! In spite of Peter’s denial, Jesus still entrusted him to lead the fledgling Church – to be our first pope. St. Peter is the perfect example that the Lord sees our hearts – what we’re really made of – and that despite our shortcomings and weaknesses, He wants to use us to do great things.
– Kelley Holy
1 The early Church fathers are unanimous in claiming that Peter died in Rome, by crucifixion, during the persecution of Nero. What is less certain is the exact date, but it is generally believed to have been around the year AD 64. According to tradition, Peter was crucified upside-down, as he didn’t feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Christ.
2 Psalm 103:10