It was a big deal when Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times just as Jesus was unjustly on trial, just before Jesus would suffer and die on the cross, and just after Jesus had warned Peter that the very temptation would be coming. Peter went down hard. He failed the Lord three times in a row.
All of have spiritually failed. Really, any time any of us sins, it could be considered a spiritual failure. But sometimes our failures reach epic proportions. While we assume the Lord will kindly forgive our day-by-day “small” sins of pride, anxiety, fear, or small outbursts, what about when we go against everything we know about God and sin willfully? What about instead of stumbling backwards into sin, we dive forwards and plunge into sin? Is there hope for even epic failures?
The cross of Christ was powerful enough to save us from even high-handed acts of rebellion against God. God poured out his wrath on Jesus on the cross in the place of sinners. Since Jesus was truly God and truly man he could suffer eternal punishment in the place of fallen people. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
The resurrection of Jesus on the third day validates this exchange. You trade your sins for Jesus’ righteousness. First, you see your sinfulness. Then you turn to God by faith asking for his mercy and grace, because of all that Jesus accomplished for you on the cross and in the resurrection. Then, God makes the exchange. You, the epic failure, now receives a brand new beginning.
After Jesus rose from the dead he met with his disciples at the Sea of Galilee. In one exchange between the risen Lord Jesus and Peter, Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved Jesus. I think he asked him one time for each of the denials Peter had done.
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him a second time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’” (John 21:15-17).
Not only would the spiritual epic failure be forgiven by Jesus, but the Lord would raise him up and use him to care spiritually for others. As you read ahead in the history of the early church Peter did indeed serve the Lord by reaching out to others and caring for the Lord’s children. God even inspired Peter to write two letters to churches that became part of the Bible (the letters are called 1 & 2 Peter).
As you consider all that was involved in Peter the failure’s wonderful restoration how are you inspired to pray? Here’s an idea that you might want to make your own if you relate to Peter:
Thank you so much for your marvelous grace and mercy. You were so kind to Peter. You had the Lord Jesus personally befriend Peter and walk with him for three years. He saw the miracles. He heard the teaching. His life was beginning to change.
Before the denials, the Lord Jesus cared so well for his friend that he warned him about the battle and even endured Peter’s proud protests that he would never deny Jesus. The Lord Jesus also prayed for Peter’s faith.
After the failure the Lord sought Peter out and gave him an opportunity to profess his love for Jesus three times. The Lord even assured him that he was not done with Peter. There would still be a bright future of spiritual service.
Thank you for honestly including the sad parts of the story in the Bible. I’ve been a sad spiritual failure as well. I have sinned when I have known better.
Thank you for the cross of Christ. Thank you that the forgiveness that Jesus’ death purchased wasn’t just for my casual sins but my big failures as well. Thank you that being restored doesn’t just mean forgiven but relegated to a dark basement of your house. You have lifted my head. You have made be useful again.
Please also use my tenderized heart to offer your compassion and grace to others. In this fallen world people often sin against each other. You have called your forgiven ones to lead the way in forgiving others. Sadly, forgiving is still hard to do when I’m the offended one.
Regularly call me back to the cross. That is the place of restoration for my failures. Free my heart to offer your grace to those that have failed me.
In the Lord’s name. Amen.