Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
April 15, 2018
Because Jesus Forgave Peter
On a dark Thursday night long ago, Jesus walked with his disciples to the garden in the Mount of Olives where he often prayed. He asked the disciples to pray. Then he went nearby and fell on his knees, praying “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”
While an angel appeared and strengthened him, he prayed so earnestly that his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. Walking back to his disciples he found them asleep. As he woke them and asked them why they were sleeping, a crowd came up with Judas leading them. Then there was that awful moment in the history of the world when Judas betrayed his Master with a kiss.
As the soldiers moved toward Jesus, Peter, always the impulsive one, grabbed his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. Jesus told Peter to put his sword away; then he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
Seizing and roughly binding Jesus, the soldiers and the Jewish officials led Jesus out of the garden, making their way toward the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. In his Gospel Luke pens these sad words: “Peter followed at a distance.”
Before morning on that chilly spring night some had built a fire in the middle of the courtyard to warm themselves. Luke pens these sad words: “Peter sat down with them.” Soon what Jesus had predicted, that Peter would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed, would begin.
In the firelight a servant girl looked closely at Peter and said aloud, “This man was with him.” Quickly Peter denied her accusation saying “Woman, I don’t know him.” A little later someone else saw Peter and said, “You are one his disciples.” Bluntly came Peter’s second denial: “Man, I am not!” An hour later a third person asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with Jesus, for he is a Galilean.” Instantly Peter blurted out his third denial, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Luke pens these sad words: “Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed.”
In describing the moment that the rooster crowed, Luke pens these remarkable words: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” I say “remarkable” because Jesus looking at Peter reveals the Master’s love for Peter. Jesus was not so absorbed with his own suffering and shameful treatment that he had lost concern for his chief disciple. What Peter saw in the eyes of Jesus was the great compassion of God for broken people. And surely the look in his Master’s eyes told Peter that there was an opportunity for forgiveness. When it dawned on Peter what a mess he had made, he fell to pieces. Luke pens these sad words: “And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
In the hours that followed, Jesus was brutally beaten, mocked and scourged by the soldiers who showed him no mercy and no respect. They struck him in the face. They laughed at him scornfully. They spat in his face. Because his hands were bound he could not even wipe the spittle from his face, the face that revealed to the world the incredible love of God. The Jewish guards and Roman soldiers beat him within an inch of his life. Then nailed his battered body to a cross and jeered him while he died. They thought that was the end of Jesus but they underestimated almighty God! Sunday came and God raised His Son from the dead. Soon his disciples began sharing the good news of the gospel – that God’s amazing grace can change a person’s life and destiny.
If the gospel is anything, it is the astounding truth that almighty God offers mercy to those who have made a mess of their lives. That truth may be seen clearly in the story of the suffering and death of Jesus. Injected into that story is the pathetic failure of Peter. The once boastful leader of the disciples is pictured on the eve of his Master’s crucifixion as a broken man, weeping inconsolably with bitter remorse. But that was not the end of the story!
Jesus forgave Peter! At a breakfast by the sea the resurrected Jesus does not ask Peter about his denial. He asked only one question: “Do you love me?” Assured of Peter’s love for him, Jesus forgives Peter. Jesus speaks not of the past but of the present moment and the future. He gives Peter a second chance by giving him a new assignment: “Feed my lambs.”
The rest is history. Forgiven and restored, Peter became a useful servant of the Lord. He resumed his leadership of the disciples. The good news of the gospel is that the same thing can happen to us! By the grace of God, we can move beyond our failures. We too can be restored, rescued from remorse and regret and set free to live for Christ.
The remarkable change in Peter’s life gives us glorious hope for ourselves and for the world. Ponder this: The same man who denied that he knew Jesus was the man so changed by the power of God that he would write two letters that are included in the New Testament! In the first chapter of the first of those letters we find these precious words: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead!” Remarkable indeed!
Consider three lessons we may draw from this marvelous story of redemption. Because Jesus forgave Peter, you can start over after making a mess of your life. Sooner or later every one of us sits in the ashes of failure. Like Peter, we can make a mess of our lives. But because Jesus forgave Peter, he will forgive you too, and you can start over. I know from experience. When I was 45, my life was a royal mess. I had been taken by ambulance to a hospital in Fairfax, Virginia. Paramedics rushed me there, thinking I was dying. God spared my life but while recovering physically I wallowed in self-pity, weeping because I felt like a failure as a father, husband and pastor. But Jesus forgave me and told me to stop crying, pick up the pieces and start over. He said he would help me – and He did!
Because Jesus forgave Peter, you can tell broken people they can start over again. This is good news for every broken person in this world. And if you are willing, the Lord will open many doors for you to share this good news with broken people. I remember Bruce coming to see me, crying, a broken man, feeling a failure as a father. I told him because Jesus forgave Peter, he could start over – and he did!
Because Jesus forgave Peter, you can let every rooster you see remind you of the forgiving love of Jesus. Roosters are everywhere – on the walls of our homes, in kitchens, in barnyards, all over the place. When you see one, you can let it remind you of the great compassion of Jesus for broken people. Thanks be to God: failure is not fatal! + + +