A Fresh Start – Forgiveness & Faith
I hate New Years Resolutions! I don’t make them – I refuse to make promises to myself that I know I won’t keep! But I do get the idea of them…January pops up it’s head around again and suddenly there seems like the possibly of a fresh start – to begin again, to set something right, to move on or more forward. It’s probably a human thing, and one there is certainly nothing wrong with.
This isn’t a post about NYR but I do want to think about this idea of a ‘Fresh Start’.
I wonder if I was to suggest you answer these two questions, what you’d come up with:
What’s the biggest promise you have ever made?
What’s your biggest regret?
I’ll share my biggest promise – Marriage vows. It was a promise I had no idea of until I’ve had to put it into action, over the last 5 years. It’s one I’m glad that I made, but it’s one that has cost me…maybe is should! Sorry, but I’m not willing to share my biggest regret, it’s too personal!
If I was to ask this Bible Character today, those two questions, I don’t think he’d need much thinking time – I reckon he’d come to his answer very quickly.
On the way, Jesus told them, “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,
‘God will strike[a] the Shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
But after I have been raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.”
Peter declared, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.”
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
“No!” Peter insisted. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the other disciples vowed the same. (Matthew 25)
Did you notice it? What was Peter’s biggest promise?
Peter, at this point of following Jesus, makes not one, but two big promises. He says that no matter what happens, he will never desert Him – he won’t leave, he won’t walk off on Him, he won’t see Him to have to fend for Himself, he’ll stand by Him and he will be by His side. To make his point ever clearer, Peter commit that even if all his other friends clear off – he won’t do that to Jesus. Big words, big promises.
But then Jesus corrects Peter, telling him that his promise won’t stand and that this very night, he won’t just leave Jesus on his own, deserting Him, he will go as far as to deny that he even knows Him. I’ve been wondering about Jesus motive and tone in sharing this with Peter. I’ve imagine it was one of great sadness, his motive we’ll get to a little later.
Any yet, even with Jesus sharing this wisdom with him, Peter goes even further in promising his loyalty. At this point, I imagine Peter’s tone might have been indignant, if not also a little smug!
No way, Jesus! Even if being with you costs me my own life – I’ll give it, I’ll die for you and for you…I will never deny that I know you.
You can’t say clearer than that. Peter, at this point in his life is a committed to Jesus as anyone could be – he’s with Him, he’s for Him and he’s willing to give up his life for His cause.
And yet, knowing all of this, let’s fast forward…
So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”
“But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”
After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”
“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.
About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”
But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.
At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” (Luke 22)
What do you think Peter’s biggest regret might have been?
I recon this is it…this is where Peter gets the chance to put his ‘money where his mouth is’…to prove himself right and Jesus wrong. But it doesn’t go to plan.
To start with, it seems to be – we are told that Peter followed Jesus and those escorting him at a ‘safe distance’, so to be fair, he hasn’t deserted Him. I wonder if he wasn’t allowed to go with Him – after all the soldiers had come to arrest Jesus not to take him for a private party!
Peter can’t have been that far away, as later in the passage we are told that Jesus turned to look at Peter, so they can’t have been miles apart. At this point Peter might have been right to be feeling confident about his promise. But that doesn’t last long. Very quickly he is put into a position where he is challenged, not once, but three times about his friendship with Christ. And not once, but three times, Peter refuses to be associated with him – he says “I don’t even know him”.
Imagine, just a blink ago Peter was full of love, courage, boldness and loyalty…now he’s sitting in the shadows, afraid to be seen in the light and associated with the man he pledged to die for. The bible tells us, the cock crowed, as Jesus foretold, and Peter’s mistake hit him like a ton of bricks.
Imagine what that must have felt like – Jesus turned to look at him and Peter realised ALL that he had done, and ALL that he could not undo.
Let’s pause for a moment and try to answer that question I posed – why did Jesus tell Peter he would deny him? It might be easy, if it wasn’t Jesus we were talking about, to suggest it was some sort of future proofing his “I told you so” rights. But this is Jesus we are talking about, so our laws of revenge don’t apply.
I’ve come to imagine, Jesus told Peter so that when it happened, Peter would remember Jesus words and realise that He already knew what Peter would do. And yet even in knowing it, He loved him and forgave him all the same. I think, when Jesus turned to look at Peter, it would have been with sadness but love and forgiveness, not bitterness, anger and hate.
Even though, Peter might not have realised it in those few seconds, those are the things he would need to hold onto, as the days and weeks past. The Bible says “Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly”.
I think that’s probably a bit of an understatement! I don’t even know if I would be possible to put into words, the depth of sorrow Peter felt at this point – words like shame, blame, disappointment, anger, grieved, heartbroken and distraught come to mind.
Let’s move for a moment, from the Bible story and to ourselves. Have you ever been where Peter is? Have you ever said or done something you know that would hurt, offend or displease God as Peter did? I think if we are honest, the answer is probably yes.
Could it be something that nobody else knows ? It might be something everything knows?
Perhaps it isnt that you have denied Jesus, but if you take a look at your biggest regret, I bet it’s in someway linked to something that God would not be pleased with. Am I right? Mine is.
Peter was in a dark, lonely and desperate place. He’d done the very thing he said he would never consider. And he was alone with his mistake, with his sin and not even his best friend for comfort. Imagine. Have you there? I have – ashamed of myself, alone with my shame and frightened of what might become of me.
Peter needed one thing – he needed a fresh start and there was only one person who could give him that. We all need a fresh start and there is only one person who can give us that too.
“Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee.[a] This is how it happened. 2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),[b] Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.”
“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night.
At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows,[c] have you caught any fish?”
“No,” they replied.
Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards[d] from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.
“Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.
“Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
“I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others[f] will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”
Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God.
Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.” (John 21)
This isn’t the first time Peter has faced Jesus, since his resurrection. We are told that the risen Christ had appeared to this disciples before – this was this third time. But there is something very significant about this meeting, especially for Peter.
We have come to know it has ‘Peter’s re-instatment or re-commissing’…although I’m not sure whether he was ever out of ‘commission’ or ‘being installed’, not in Jesus eyes anyway, but maybe in his own.
Jesus used this opportunity to not only feed Peter’s body to be nourish his soul. Something I think Peter very much-needed. In this encounter, Jesus gives Peter a role in establishing, leading and tending his church – a job He did not assign, in this manner, to anyone else. Boy, how Peter needed to hear this – Jesus still had use for him, He still had work for him to do, He still believed in him and Peter still had a place in His kingdom – what greater news could there be for Peter’s heart to hear!
There’s one particular verse that caught my attention –
“He (Peter) said, Lord you know everything. You know that I love you”.
I actually think that’s a really big statement and maybe one only Peter and Jesus know the true significance of in this situation. Peter acknowledges that Jesus knows EVERYTHING about him – He knew that Peter would fail Him, He knows that he did fail Him, He knows the state of his heart and soul. But Peter also declares that Jesus knows that Peter loves Him…for me that is a declaration of Peter’s faith and Jesus forgiveness.
Jesus gives Peter a fresh start.
Jesus gives Peter a fresh start and here we see faith and forgiveness clearly on display!
Jesus gives us – you and me – a fresh start. If you have come to follow Him, in that moment, He wiped the slate clean. He took the sin and the mess that had invaded your life and cleansed your heart and soul. If, today you haven’t taken the step to know Him – you can have that too, all you need to do it make that choice.