“Jesus said to him, 'Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.' And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept” Mark 14:30, 72.
One of the things I enjoy seeing when traveling is what sits (or doesn't sit) atop church steeples. Usually, I discover a variety of crosses, but every now and then, I see something different that catches my eye. When we think of unique steeples in our area, our minds immediately go to First Presbyterian Church in Port Gibson, MS that has the golden hand with the index finger pointing up to heaven. The golden hand is a reminder of where our true home is: eternity. Have you ever wondered why churches have crosses on their steeples? Most of us think, “Well, yeah, it’s a holy place, so the Cross of Jesus Christ makes sense.” However, there are no laws that require churches to put anything on their steeples, let alone crosses. Some churches in bigger towns even have their steeples serve multiple purposes: reminding citizens they are a house of worship, plus, inconspicuously helping the local cell-phone company serve as a cell-tower in the area (two churches in the Jackson MS area come to mind). Why have anything on a church steeple?
Back in the 9th century, something interesting happened in Europe that came to America without us even realizing the significance. Pope Nicholas I decreed that all churches (whether they liked it or not) must display a rooster atop their steeples or domes as a symbol of Christianity. The symbol captured Peter the Apostle’s faith during the events surrounding the Crucifixion of Jesus. The rooster “weather vane” would serve as a religious icon, reminding believers of their commitment to Christ in times of conflict, while hoping to stir curiosity among unbelievers, leading more people to Christ.
As centuries went by, the rather strict and profound rule about roosters being a requirement atop of church steeples ended. However, many roosters remained, functioning as weather vanes. Originally, people tied strings or cloth atop of buildings, eventually turning into banners or pennants. The Old English word for “banner” or “flag” was originally pronounced “vane”. One of the most well-known weather vanes in the world was created during the times of Pope Nicholas’ decree. A copper rooster weather vane known as the “Gallo di Ramperto” once sat atop of the San Faustino church bell tower in Brescia, Italy. With the end of the decree of Pope Nicholas, many European settlers still carried on the tradition. They even brought it to the New World where early churches, farms, and houses displayed the rooster weather vane proudly, reminding Christians about the strength and commitment to their faith. Centuries later, the rooster weather vane still sits proudly across the nation, even while many are unaware of the remarkable origin story to such a common work of art and culture.
The story doesn’t stop there. Peter thought he had blown it for good the night he denied Jesus. He didn’t deserve to be an Apostle anymore, especially since before his denial he told Jesus directly that he would DIE for him (Mark 14:29, 31). After Jesus’ resurrection, when the women came to the tomb and found it empty, the angels guarding the tomb told the women something very comforting: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See this place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples AND Peter that he is going before you to Galilee” (Mark 16:6-7). You and I can be notorious for remembering people for their faults. The rooster is a remarkable symbol for Christianity and our faith – NOT because of Peter denying the Lord, but because the Lord welcomed him back in once He rose from the grave. Jesus still called Peter his family, his brother, his Apostle, and his servant for advancing the kingdom of God!
The rooster decree and weather vane are a great reminder of staying true to Christ in all seasons of life, no matter how easy or how difficult they can be. The Lord is molding us and shaping us into better servants every day. Even though we might be aging externally, internally, God is renewing us if we allow Him to work in us through His Holy Spirit! What kind of witness are you to others for Christ? The one labeled by Peter’s final moments with the rooster, or the one who: "...would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.