This particular story is unique to John. So why does he include it? In verse 14, John reminds us that this is the third time that Jesus has made Himself known to the disciples. The two previous times that Jesus showed up, He had a purpose in mind, right? Calming the fears and commissioning a group of the disciples, breathing on them the Holy Spirit and giving them life; and then a special encore presentation for Thomas. This episode also has a very focused purpose…the restoration of Peter. You see, after his denial, we as the readers are left wondering, “So whatever happened to Peter?”
Peter had blatantly denied and turned his back on Jesus. There was no getting around it. After all of the boasting, after all of the posturing, in the end he had failed miserably. And all of his closest friends knew it. Fear might have been involved, although given Peter’s boldness in confronting the soldiers that seems less likely. Frustration? Probably. Doubts? Sure. But Peter was supposed to be their fearless leader. Would he ever be useful again?
And now, miraculously Peter is given a second chance. Jesus shows up and takes him aside, and with the reminder of both his failure and his calling in mind, he’s given another opportunity to follow Jesus. But following Him this go round would not end well from an earthly standpoint. It would involve a cross. Given the last three years…knowing all that he had been through and would yet go through, would he still sign up? Knowing that the journey would be a lonely one, with no guarantees that anyone else would accompany him, would he still follow Jesus? Would you?
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time I verbally denied Jesus. I can, though, remember plenty of times that I denied Him by my actions. It reminds me of my high school and college years. I had trusted in Jesus and even felt like He was calling me into ministry, but I was unwilling to give up the life I was pursuing at the time. I was afraid I might miss out on something, but it was just leading to greater heartache, shame, frustration, guilt, etc. It wasn’t “life”…not anything like the abundant life that Jesus talked about last week. But of course I wasn’t walking in obedience either. I wasn’t spending time in His Word or prayer, wasn’t spending time with other believers, really didn’t feel like I had much of a story to share. I wasn’t abiding and so for sure wasn’t bearing fruit. I was denying Jesus with all but my words. And yet He was so gracious and just kept pursuing me, until one day I came to the “aha” moment, and I stopped running from Him and started pursuing Him…and said “yes” to His “Follow Me.”
But what about you? How have you blown it? Have you come out the other side? What does life look like? What have you learned from it? How is it causing you to trust God more? The encouraging thing for me from Peter’s story is that Jesus makes a special trip to offer him his second chance. And not only a second chance, but also a bright new future chock full of opportunity to continue to pursue Jesus…and to fail, but also to change the world. He and this rag-tag group of Jesus-followers will take the Roman world by storm…not leading a military campaign, but waging spiritual warfare nonetheless. We are here today because of a guy like Peter.
It strikes me that Peter’s story would likely have had a very different ending had I been the one whom he had denied. And for some of us, we are in the position of being the betrayed. If that’s you, have you restored the one who failed you? Have you forgiven them? Any second chances? Would you trust them with an even greater level of responsibility? Or would you do what I can be so quick to do, and write them off?
Peter’s story is challenging: Do we believe that Jesus still can and wants to use us, no matter our failures? Are we willing to follow Him, no matter the cost? Will we forgive and restore others when they fail us?
My prayer is that you realize Jesus’ deep and abiding love for you, that you rest in His amazing grace, and that you show that same grace toward others this week.
This post is based on a sermon from our John series. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter: @ccclancaster