|Beginning again: God of second chances|
One of the mistakes we make is to think that the great characters of the Bible were perfect, that they never made mistakes. We think of them as heroes of faith who never doubted, had fear, or failed God. Isn’t this the way we sometimes think? Certainty, some of them were “almost” irrepressible (no faults) in all aspects of their lives (such as Joseph, Genesis Chaps. 37-50, Job, Daniel, etc.). However, the Bible also tells us these great servants of God had the same temptations, trials, and difficulties you and I have on a daily basis in our Christian walk. Those great heroes of faith also made mistakes, doubted, made wrong decisions (Solomon), complained about God’s willing (Jonah). They failed Him in many ways and under many circumstances. No, the Bible does not hide the mistakes of God’s servants. But… What made them different? Why could they be part of the great characters’ list of faith in the Scripture if they made mistakes? Today, we’ll study an episode in the life of one of these great men. A man who failed God (and I think it was more than once), but in spite of his mistakes, he was always willing to begin again.
John 13: 36-38 36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going? ”Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
Let’s begin with the context of the passage. First, chapter 13 through chapter 17 of the book of Saint John constitute what is known as Jesus’ Upper Room Discourse. Second, Jesus had retired with his disciples to an upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate The Passover Festival. Now, we are between the night and early morning of the day he was going to be arrested. Third, The Lord had washed the feet of his disciples. (v5) His affliction, as a result of all he was going to go through, was evident. (v21) Fourth, an intimate friend (the traitor) had already sold the Master. It was only a matter of time. (v27) Jesus had just told the disciples that he was going to a place where they could not go. (v33)
I. The Promise
37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Here is where Peter’s promise takes place. What does he say? “I will lay down my life for you.” “Because of you, I am willing to go to jail and if it is necessary… to die.” (Luke 22:33) “Even if everybody is scandalized or ashamed of you, I won’t.” (Mt. 14:29; Mt. 26:23) What do you think of Peter’s promise, sincere or not? –I think Pedro had a sincere intention in his promise. He loved the Lord and wanted to be faithful to keep his promise. He hadn’t planned to fail his loved master. But, what did Jesus prophesized him?
38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
How often do we make promises thinking that we’ll keep them? During the wedding ceremony, for example, couples swear eternal love, fidelity, and commitment one another. Also, sons and daughters promise their parents they will do it better at school or university this coming year. They promise they will never fail another course again. In the same way, employees promise their boss never to be late again just because they do not want to be fired. How many Christians promise God we’ll be different this new year? We make the promise of going to the church more often, serving more… and never ever doing that sin which causes us not to have a close relationship with Him.
Is it easy to make promises? – Yes, it is! But it’s more difficult to keep them! Peter made his promise thinking he could keep it, just like many of us. You and I must recognize that even if our intention is not to fail God, soon or later, in one way or another, we will fail him. Some of us will probably do it in public and some others will do it in secret. While we live and inhabit this earth, we’ll be susceptible to fail Him. Why? –Because we are sinners, redeemed but still sinners.
II.The Broken Promise
Move to chapter 18 verses 15 and 16 (in this moment, Jesus the Lord has been arrested): 15 Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus. Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, 16 but Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the servant girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
First denial: 17 “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?” she asked Peter. He replied, “I am not.”
It’s interesting to see that Peter’s first denial was neither in front of the Roman authority nor the religious one. It was in front of a servant girl. According to Matthew, Peter pretended not to know what she was asking him about. (Mt. 26:70) He pretended not to understand. It was a subtle way of denying the Master.
Second denial: 25 Meanwhile, Simon Peter was still standing there warming himself. So they asked him, “You aren’t one of his disciples too, are you? ”He denied it, saying, “I am not.”
According to Matthew, this second time Peter swore not to know Jesus. (Mt. 26:72) His negation increases progressively.
Third denial: 26 One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
Matthew tells us that, during his third denial, Peter not only swore not to know Jesus but he began to call down curses in front of them. So, they could believe him. (Mt. 26:74) At that moment, a rooster began to crow just as Jesus had assured him.
How many Peters are there? (I include myself) –Maybe none of us have verbally denied Jesus, but we’ve denied him with our actions. Isn’t it true that, sometimes, with our bad reputation and without words, we deny Jesus in front of our neighbors and friends? So, people are surprised of our bad actions and ask: Didn’t that person say he was Christian? Why does he behave like that? We deny the Lord when we offend and harm others, even our own brothers and sisters in Christ. We become fake if after offending and harming others, we lift our hands singing and serving the Lord at the church. Even if our mouth does not say we know Jesus, our actions will tell others if we know Him or not.
What happened the third time Peter denied Jesus? –A rooster began to crow. Imagine if we had a rooster who would crow every time we fail God! We would listen to many roosters crowing during each service in the church! Thanks God we don’t have a rooster but someone better than that, The Holy Spirit. He lives inside of us. He is the one in charge of pointing out our faults, of showing us our sins, and of putting sorrow which brings repentance to restore our relationship with God. (1 Cor. 7:10)
Who makes you feel uncomfortable when you sin? –The Holy Spirit who lives in you. When a true Christian fails God, he feels sorrow in the deepest of his heart.
III. The Condition of Peter
The 4 gospels narrate this sad episode in Peter’s life (The bible doesn’t hide our mistakes). However, it’s Luke who provides of more details.
Luke 22:61-62 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
It’s incredible to think that Peter and Jesus looked at each other just after Peter had denied him. How was it possible that in the middle of the crowd, those holy eyes could gaze him? This was something that marked Peter’s memory for all his life. Some people make the presumption that Jesus saw him with disappointment that he probably said: “you failed me. You felt ashamed of me. You were not faithful to me…” I don’t think it was like that. If you have experienced and you have read in the Scripture about the greatness our Savior’s love, you will draw to the conclusion that what made Peter wept was to see Jesus’ gaze full of love. That in spite of what he’s done, Jesus’ eyes were telling him “Peter I love you, and all you see I’m doing, I’m doing it because of you.” –I would have wept without stopping, just like Peter. What about you?
Luke tells us that after this, Peter left and wept bitterly. It’s interesting that in Greek there are many words used to mean “cry”. One of them is referred to cry silently shedding tears, but the word used here describes someone’s audible grieving and strong expression his soul’s pain. Peter’s bitter weeping was an external evidence of the deepest repentance of his heart.
In chapter 21 of the book of Saint John, the Lord Jesus has already risen. Pedro, probably thinking that he was not good enough for the gospel, decides to return to his old occupation as a fisherman. So, he goes fishing with his friends. (Jn. 21: 3-6) At the end of the chapter, we see Jesus sharing some fish with them (v12) and walking only with Peter to ask him one question. Simon son of John, do you love me? (vv15-17) –Peter at end responds “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” The Lord at the end of the conversation tells him: “follow me”. (v19) This was the point in which Peter’s life was restored. Then we see him in the book of Acts 2 preaching Jesus Christ and winning more than 3000 souls!
What can we learn? –God is interested in us. More than what we can think of. Just like the day we believed, He is the one who looks for and restores us when we have failed him.
At the beginning I asked you a question: what made these men full of mistakes and imperfections to be great heroes of faith? What made the difference in their lives?
–It was that in spite of their imperfections, they were always willing to be restored by the Lord’s mercy and grace. They didn’t get stuck in the mud of their failures, but they decide to move forward. They didn’t give up. They accepted the challenge to begin again with Christ.
Maybe, today, you feel you’ve failed too many times to the Lord, that you don’t deserve a second, a third, or a forth opportunity with God. I want to tell you that it’s not about the number of mistakes we’ve made, but about the number of times we are willing to begin again with Christ. It’s about the number of times we are willing to accept his paternal forgiveness and decide to try again.
What made the difference with Peter? –Jesus’ love and his willingness to start over with Him.
God bless you!