Reflection: Second Sunday of Lent

Welcome to our series of Lent and Easter reflections.

The Reverend Mark Birch reflects on Peter’s denial of Jesus and how it is represented visually on the altar of the Lady Chapel with a crowing cockerel statue.

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Mark 8: 31 - 38

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’ 

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words. In this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ 


Above the altar in the Lady Chapel, two angels present the viewer with a plain Cross on the south side, and a pillar with a crowing cockerel on the north. The cockerel has a nice ambiguity; reminding us of Peter’s denial of Jesus, but also heralding the Day of Resurrection. 

Peter features, again not terribly flatteringly, in the reading from Mark’s gospel. Jesus predicts his own suffering, death, and resurrection, and Peter is appalled.   

It is often said that we stand to learn more from our failures than from our successes.  Peter has just excelled himself in identifying Jesus as the Messiah, but within a few verses he is being rebuked in the strongest possible terms. He has failed to understand the significance of what Jesus is saying about his suffering, death and resurrection. We might have sympathy with Peter, because this is the most difficult thing for anyone to understand. 

Jesus challenges his disciples to take up their cross and follow. He wants them to approach suffering and death as he did; with faith that neither will have the last word. He says, in fact, that this is the only way to have life, now and at the final cock-crow. 


Lord God,  
whose blessed Son our Saviour  
gave his back to the smiters  
and did not hide his face from shame: 
give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time  
with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed;  
through Jesus Christ our Lord.