by Julie Coleman @JulieZColeman
“…Where sin increased, grace increased all the more… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 5:20, 8:1, NIV
He was a golden boy, loved in part for his sincere heart for Jesus. After seminary, he took a position as pastor of a small church. It was a good life. But then one day, he fell. During a counseling session with a church member, in the heat of the moment, he committed adultery. He was immediately ashamed. After confessing, he was asked to step down from his position, to take time to heal and devote attention to his devastated family.
We wondered: how do you come back from that? Were his days of ministry over? Had his failure disqualified him for good?
Of all the accounts of failure in the Bible, the night of Peter’s denial rates right up there at the top. Three times he denied knowing Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. It was too dangerous to be linked to the man being tried for blasphemy. Peter simply lacked the courage to let his relationship be known.
We can relate to Peter’s shortcoming, can’t we? Who of us hasn’t had a big fail in one time or another? A moment in which we did the wrong thing and continue to regret, even years later?
Up until his big fail, Peter was slated to be a leader in the Kingdom of God. Jesus had affirmed this on several occasions. But now? I’m sure Peter had his doubts. In fact, the next time we see Peter, he has gone back to fishing in the Sea of Galilee. Did he think that in his failure, he had forfeited any chance of the leadership for which Jesus had groomed him?
We can’t be sure, but the indications are there that he did. As the fishermen rowed toward the shore, they realized Jesus was there. John tells us Peter jumped into the water. But rather than eagerly swim to shore, I believe Peter jumped into the water on the other side of the boat. And busied himself with the net and fish.
He was avoiding the moment he would have to look Jesus in the eye.
Jesus told them to bring some of the catch to the fire. John tells us Peter came up out of the water with the fish. Until that moment, he’d avoided stepping up onto the beach. He was dreading his moment of truth.
After breakfast, Jesus took Peter aside. And he asked him: “Do you love me?”
Three times he asked Peter that question. Three chances to set the record straight. But what about Peter’s denial? If I were Jesus, I would have sat him down for a little talk. What did he learn from his mistake? What would he do next time?
But Jesus didn’t do that. He just reconfirmed Peter’s Kingdom assignment: Feed my lambs.
Many commentators are hard on Peter. They feel his story is told as a stern warning. After all, Jesus had said early on that if someone denied Him, He would deny them.
Is that why his story is featured in all four gospels? I don’t think so. I think that hearing of Peter’s failure would have been a huge encouragement to first century readers. They were facing terrible persecution. If God could forgive Peter and use him in leadership, then there was hope for them. Hope even if they caved and denied Jesus under the threat of the sword. God’s forgiveness was not based on how well they stood the test. It was based on grace alone.
God is a God of second chances. No matter what we have done, even if we do it over and over again, His grace is greater. There is nothing we can do to make us love Him more. And there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. We can’t disqualify ourselves. We never did anything to earn God’s favor in the first place. He loved us when we were in total rebellion. He died for us while we were His enemies.
My pastor friend? He now works in a prison ministry, encouraging the inmates with the story of his failure and God’s redemption.
Do you need a second chance? Are there things in your past that seem unforgivable? God’s abundant grace covers that sin. Jesus nailed it to the cross. Put the guilt into God’s capable hands and let it go. We cannot out-sin His grace.
 The NIV says the boat “followed” Peter into shore. But the Greek verb is literally “came,” not followed.
About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.
Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens of the Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.
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