despite all my failures…
Even though I have read John, Chapter 21, many times before, I never really got it…until now. This time, as I read about Peter’s encounter with Jesus after the resurrection, I finally understood what was happening.
I could, unfortunately, totally relate to Peter. It turns out, I’m a lot like him.
Here’s a bit of helpful backstory: His birth name was Simon, and he was a fisherman. When he was called to follow Jesus, he was fondly nicknamed “Peter,” which means rock. He was passionate. A leader. One of the first disciples. Always confident that he loved Jesus the most.
And…he had pride. He claimed to be the best, but ended up being one of the weakest. Peter confidently declared to Jesus that he was ready to die for him, but when the time came, he panicked. He denied knowing Jesus 3 separate times.
Talk about failure.
Chapter 21 deals with the aftermath of Peter’s denial as he comes face to face with the man he said he didn’t know. In other words, Peter and Jesus have a little discussion about his betrayal.
When chapter 21 begins, a bunch of the disciples are sitting around, trying to figure out what to do. Jesus had risen from the dead, and appeared to them a couple of times, but they were still unsure of what their new life was supposed to look like. Ever the leader, Peter suggests they go fishing, so the disciples head out on the water. They fish all night, but when morning comes, their net is empty.
A man on shore hollers out and asks them if they have caught anything.
He suggests trying their net on the other side of the boat.
There are so many fish that the disciples can’t even pull in their net.
Immediately, John realizes that the man on shore is Jesus. And Peter, the passionate guy he is, jumps into the water and starts swimming for shore. He doesn’t even want to wait for the boat to take him back.
Let me stop here to point out that Peter’s zeal to reach Jesus is pretty impressive. If I were Peter, I would have tried to stay hidden in the back of the boat and avoided eye contact, hoping Jesus didn’t notice I was there. I would have been too ashamed of my recent failures to approach him.
But not Peter. He’s the first one to shore, where Jesus has breakfast waiting on the beach.
Can you imagine that moment?
Alone and standing in front of the risen Lord, whom you had failed? Peter knew he had denied Jesus three times. Jesus knew Peter had denied him three times. If I were Peter, I would have been drowning in shame.
It was the moment of reckoning.
Jesus addresses him, but gone is the beloved nickname. The use of his birth name, Simon, affirms the distance that is now between them. Jesus asks a simple question three times…the same number of times that Peter denied him.
“Do you love me?”
This question hurts Peter, I know it does. It humbles him.
Because it’s humbling to stand there and own up to your failure, to look the man you denied in the eyes and hear him question your love. It stings because you know your words sound hollow.
“Yes, Lord. You know I love you.”
Even though I failed you, I love you. Please believe me.
I know, because I have been there.
I was a leader too; I was passionate and confident in my faith. I stood on stage and proclaimed my great love for Jesus. But when the moment of truth came, I walked away and pretended I didn’t know him. For a few years, I denied my faith every day by how I lived my life. (If you haven’t read my story, you can catch up by reading my post “scars”)
I failed him too, just like Peter.
Even today, thinking about the cost of my betrayal brings pain. I can feel the burning shame in my cheeks if I let myself dwell on the mistakes in my past. He’s forgiven me, and I know I don’t carry that weight anymore, but it still stings in my heart that I betrayed him.
I had my moment of reckoning, too…just like Peter. It was when I was fasting right after I came back to my faith, and God spoke to me so clearly it was almost audible. He asked me how much I loved him, and what I would be willing to give up for him. Then, he asked me three times if I would give up everything for him, and I replied yes each time.
Just like Peter.
Just like Peter, I had pride.
Just like Peter, I failed miserably when it mattered.
Just like Peter, I was humbled.
But here is the good news of Chapter 21: Just like Peter, I can still be used by God.
When Peter tells Jesus that he loves him, each time Jesus responds with, “Feed my sheep.”
After telling him to “feed my sheep” three times, Jesus reiterates his first command to the fisherman: Follow me.
In other words, keep doing my work.
Peter’s failures didn’t disqualify him from doing the work of the Father, and my failures don’t disqualify me, either. God isn’t done with me yet! He made that clear when he told me to chase him with reckless abandon.
1 Timothy 1:15-17 says, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others can realize that they, too, can believe in him and have eternal life. All honor and glory to God forever and ever.”
Amen! I am so thankful for a God who chooses to use me, despite all my failures, to show his light to others.
The same grace that Jesus offered Peter, he offered to me, and he offers it to you as well. No matter who you are or what you have done, you are not disqualified from doing the work of Jesus. If you come to him in repentance, he will take you back, extend you grace, grant you forgiveness, and fill you with hope. Then, when he has restored you, he will use your life to testify of his great love.
Peter is proof, and so am I.
Friends, I don’t know where you are on the faith journey. Maybe you are running after Jesus with all that you have, and that is awesome.
But maybe, this blog finds you far away from where you would like to be with Jesus. Maybe you too, have failed him.
If so, can I encourage you to be like Peter?
Humble yourself, jump out of the boat and swim toward shore as fast as you can.
Jesus is waiting there.
As always, I love hearing from you. Comment below or send me a message and I would love to get on my knees and pray for you. Let’s do this faith journey together.
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