May I invite you to read John 21:15-19? Here we have a classic example of Jesus’ ministry of encouragement exercised towards Peter after he had let him down so badly by denying him at the moment when, one might say, he needed his support the most. While Jesus was being questioned by the high priest, Peter had been waiting outside the courtyard until he was given permission to go in. As he went in the girl on door-duty queried whether he was, in fact, a follower of Jesus. He flatly denied it. Once inside the courtyard Peter kept himself warm by a charcoal fire. Then someone else queried whether or not he was a disciple and again he denied it outright. And then a third person challenged him saying that he had seen him with Jesus in the olive grove. Now, not only did Peter deny his Lord – that alone would have been bad enough – but he did so having earlier protested his absolute and undying loyalty to Jesus.
Once, when Jesus and his disciples had been on their way to Caesarea Philippi, he had asked them who people were saying he was. They said that some were saying he was John the Baptist, returned to life, while others reckoned he was Elijah, or one of the prophets. Jesus then turned the question onto them and asked them who they themselves thought he was. It was Peter who came out straightaway with “You are the Christ”. On another occasion, when many of Jesus’ followers began to turn away because his teaching was too much for them to accept, it was Peter again who boldly asserted that there was no one else to turn to since Jesus had the words of eternal life. Then, just before his arrest, Jesus told his disciples what was about to happen to him and warned them that they would all fall away. Peter would not hear of it but declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not”. Then Jesus told Peter quite directly that that very night he would, in fact, deny him three times. Still he was not listening, still he was certain of his own commitment to his Lord saying, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you”. He had said he would never forsake Jesus, but when it came to the crunch he let him down badly. The encouraging thing about the story that unfolds in John 21 is that there was hope for Peter, there was a future for him, despite his serious lapse and, since not one of us is any better or any worse than Peter, there is hope and a future for us too! We were not there, of course, while Jesus was being questioned, vehemently denying any knowledge of him. But sometimes our behaviour, our words and often our silence are a denial that we have ever met the Christ. We all know people who have made mistakes and made a bit of a mess of their Christian life and witness and we may be tempted to write them off. In our worst moments we may feel inclined to write ourselves off, too, on account of some failure on our part. In our best moments we hope and pray for forgiveness and a fresh start, and the story of Peter assures us that such forgiveness and such a fresh start is available, from Jesus himself!
Warmest greetings in Christ,
Chairman, Saffron Walden Bible Focus