Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Life is like a roller coaster. There’s normally a line that you have to get in. And then you wait. You slowly walk while you wait. Walk and wait. Walk and wait. Finally, you get up to the ride. You wait some more before you get in. Then you put on your seatbelt or a bar comes across you. You wait some more. You finally start to move, but it’s slow. Eventually you are taken up a steep incline where you are released.
Yes, the ride is fun. Yes, the ride is exciting. Yes, the ride was well worth the wait. But there really wasn’t much of a surprise. You saw everything coming. You could figure out when the drop was. You saw the turns and loops. There were very few surprises.
And then there’s the Rock n’ Roller Coaster at Walt Disney theme parks. There’s no ramp that you slowly move up. Instead, you are launched from 0-to-60 MPH in 2.8 seconds. You go from sitting still to being literally catapulted down the track where you experience more G-force than astronauts on takeoff.
Yes there are lights and speakers telling you that you are about to take off down the track. But no matter how much you prepare, no matter how much you think you can handle it, the burst of speed is overwhelming. It catches you by surprise.
And that’s where we find Peter. Life was just going along. Yes, he had denied Jesus. Yes, he had walked away from people who tried to tie him together with this guy who was under arrest. Yes, he had called down a curse on himself as proof that he didn’t know Jesus.
Peter had sort of handled his problems. With his words and the anger in his voice, he put some distance between himself, Jesus, and them. I’m certain that Peter was, thinking, hoping, that the problem would just disappear.
Now, all of a sudden that rooster crows. And it all connected in Peter’s head. Jesus’ hurtful prediction and his denial. When all those thoughts and feelings all came crashing together, he remembered. His boasting. His pride. And now his failure. He had done exactly what he said that he’d never ever do. He did exactly what Jesus said that he would absolutely do.
The rush of shame, failure, and overwhelming failure brought down his walls of self-assurance and self-reliance. With all this built-up emotion, he burst into tears.
Remember, Peter isn’t some lightweight guy. No, he works outside in all kinds of weather. He was used to a rough, outdoor life. He worked with his hands. He needed to be physically and emotionally strong. He knew the excitement of a good catch and the utter disappointment of empty nets. He wasn’t an emotional creampuff.
Peter is totally and immediately broken.
Do you remember the last time you burst into tears? I’m not talking about a small tear that silently and secretly rolls down your cheek in the dark at a movie. Or your eyes getting wet during an emotional scene on TV. No. I’m talking about an all-out, emotional blow-out where you just lost it. You lost control. You couldn’t stop.
When I do this, more than tears come out of my eyes. Deep sobs come out of my mouth. My breathing becomes labored as I uncontrollably take great gulps of air. I then push them out with even greater force and moaning.
Sometimes God deals with us in this way. He lets us go to the bottom of ourselves. We think we can handle it. That we can do it all on our own.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream
Follow every rainbow, till you find your dreams
But then, we come to the end of ourselves. Our pride is smashed. Our ego is ruined. The vision we had of ourselves is all at once erased as we find out that we’re not as self-reliant as we thought.
This may sound hard and harsh, but this is exactly where we need to be. It’s at this lowest of the low points that we are finally ready to admit our hollowness. Our weakness. Our needing God.
Peter went out and wept bitterly. But those tears were the seeds of a changed life. The rebuilding of bravery. Integrity. Greatness. God transformed him from an uneducated and uncertain outdoorsman into the leader of a movement that changed the world. And is still changing the world. Transforming lives, one at a time.
He was on top, and then crashed. Both were necessary to change this guy. It’s the same with us. Peter was changed through ups and down. So are we. One day at a time. One up at a time. One down at a time.