May 15, 2022

Forgiveness And A Second Chance

Passage: John 21:1-19

Mary Lewis, Director of Children ministries at the Marion First Baptist Church in North Carolina, was asked to speak on Peter's denial of Jesus and how he was given a second chance. She shared that she watched a movie that ended with a court case. There was a
young man who was convicted of terrible crimes. He held people at gunpoint and robbed them. In a shootout, a police officer was killed in the line of duty. The young man's lawyer spoke before sentencing. “You honour”, he said, “I'm asking for leniency. This man served
his country in war and during that time, he got mentally hurt. He needs help; please spare his life.” The judge became instantly angry and yelled, “He didn't show any mercy to his pleading victims. I'm sentencing him to death.” The judge got up and went into his chambers and the young man was led away. Mary continued, “When Peter was brought to face judgment, he was expecting to hear the worst after he denied his Lord. But the Judge, Jesus, got up from
His desk and took off His gown. He said, 'I declare this man innocent of his offence. I want you to lead me away, for I will take his punishment.' There was astonishment on Peter's face as he was let go. His Lord was nailed to the cross a few hours later and with that all of Peter's and the people of the world's sins. They all received a second chance. And later when Peter was in a state of beating himself up for what he did, he received love and grace from His Lord.” I don't know about you, but for me Jesus spoke those words at the Sea of Tiberias as well – “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

I needed a second chance and quite often I still need a second chance. Peter’s life was one of ups and downs. He had his moments of spiritual highs like on the Mount of Transfiguration as he wanted to put up thee shelters – one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. It was like he was in heaven in that moment. And then in Matthew 16: 16 we find the famous confession of Peter. It's still heard in every corner of the world – “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” It was almost as if nothing could go wrong for Peter and we want to think with all believers over time – “If there was one who surely could qualify to have a steadfast stand for Jesus, it was Peter.” But things got out of control for him. After boasting that he would never leave Jesus, in fact that he would die for his Lord,
he watched from a distance as Jesus was led away. Peter followed at a distance, close enough to see Jesus, but not too close to be seen with Jesus. And as Jesus was being tried in the court of the High Priest, Peter stood outside and chose to warm himself by the fire, and three times he was recognized, three chances he had to make a bold stand for his Lord, and three times he blew it. And when the rooster crowed, scripture says, that Peter wept bitterly,
for he remembered the words of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” John 13: 38. He in many people’s eyes was the best nominee ever to carry the title, “The failure.” But you will agree with me – after him followed thousands and
thousands of people whose lives turned out as failures.
Three days after the crucifixion the women came running from the tomb with the amazing news of Jesus’ resurrection. Peter was so relieved and overjoyed that he ran with John to the tomb. He just had to take himself from the lowest state of his life to see for
himself. Later Jesus appeared to Peter and the rest of the disciples. With many generations of Christians we wonder what must have gone through that disciple’s mind. Yes, Jesus did greet them all behind locked doors with the words, “Peace be with you.” Yes, He did say to them, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” But there was still some unfinished business between Him and Peter. Would there still be a place for Peter in Jesus’ heart after what he did? Let’s look into the event of Jesus and His disciples having breakfast on the
beach at the Sea of Tiberias. Notice the similarities here between Peter’s first calling to follow Jesus and this account. Both occurred on the Sea of Tiberias, both times Peter couldn’t catch a thing, both times Jesus told him to throw his nets into the water and both times there was a miraculous catch. Sometimes when you have fallen, it’s good to go back to where it all began. God called Jacob back to Bethel to renew his commitment to Him. For Jacob it was a
second chance – a second starting point when he told his family to get rid of their idols and commit themselves to God. Here in our passage from John 21: 1-19 we see that Jesus offered Peter forgiveness. After the meal together, Jesus turned to Peter. And in full view of all the other disciples, Jesus confronted him. But it was different from what he expected. He expected to hear from Jesus, “Why did you deny me after giving me those affirming words
that you would die for me?” You see, our Lord had too much compassion to push the knife of guilt any deeper into Peter’s heart. Rather, His goal was to remove Peter’s guilt, to do the restoration of Peter’s heart and soul that was so needed. In verse 15 we read, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Notice the name change here. Jesus didn’t refer to Peter as “the Rock”, but simply as Simon. The title of Peter no longer fit. A rock is strong and dependable, and Peter had been anything but dependable. "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” This was a reference to Peter’s boast in the Upper Room where he stated that even if everybody else fled he never would. Peter had been boastful, and Jesus was asking, “Simon, are you still willing to make that claim?” And Peter wasn’t. He responded by saying, “Yes, Lord, "You know that I love you." No comparisons, no boasting on how his level of commitment was superior to anybody else’s. Peter through his
mistake had learned humility and he realized that maybe he wasn’t as strong as he thought he was. You see, like many before and after him, he went with his abilities up to the point of denying his Lord – my faith, my healing, my confidence, my commitment to Jesus. You know, a follower of Jesus can never live with that mindset. It can never be about “my” or “me.” No, it's supposed to be everything about Jesus through us. Paul Althuis, a Dutch theologian once
said, “If I’ am capable of anything, I don’t know, but in Whom I believe and through Him I'm capable that I know.” Peter was so busy to work with Jesus; he got so used to it that he forgot where everything came from. Therefore Jesus had to restore his life from failure to success. He still had high prospects for Peter – He wanted His disciple to not just talk, but to go and do things far above his own ability. Peter was destined to be “the success” after he was given
forgiveness. Here in the text, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” And the word He used for love here is the word Agape. It means to sacrifice. Well, Peter responded in an honest fashion. He knew that his actions didn’t match that kind of devotion,
and that he wasn’t quite there; so he responded by saying, “Lord, you know that I love you.” But the word he used for love in his answer was Phileo, the friendship love from the Greek language. So to paraphrase this text it reads like this, “Peter, do you love me 100%,
more than anyone or anything else?” Peter’s response – “Lord, you know I love you as a Friend.” Peter was honest about his spiritual condition. He knew that he couldn’t hide anything from Jesus. O my friends, we don’t like to be exposed like Peter, but we know
clearly that God knows our motives and our hearts. And when this question is directed to us about loving Jesus 100% we too have to respond, “Lord, I love You as I like a friend.” But it is the Agape love Jesus wants from His followers. Three times He asked Peter, until the disciple became so sad and cried out, “Lord, You know everything.” The three times of denial had been cancelled out by asking the question 3 times. 3 times Peter had failed and 3 times He
was restored. Peter, the rock was back! Can you appreciate how much thousands of people in our world long to get back what they once had? Then just like with Peter our Lord comes to restore us. His forgiveness is always there and He gives a second chance.

Rev. Willem H. van de Wall