Confession: I really identify with Peter’s denial.
Jesus: Where I’m going now, you can’t follow. But you will later.
Peter: Why can’t I follow you? I’d die for you!
Jesus: Really? Bro, you’re actually going to deny me not once, not twice, but three times…in a few hours as a matter of fact.
[A few hours later…]
Stranger: Man, stop frontin, I saw you with him in the garden!! You’re one of his!! You’re one of them–a follower of Jesus, that fraud!
Peter: I’m telling you for the last %*$# time! I %*$# don’t know the man!
[Rooster crows. Peter weeps bitterly. Jesus dies. Jesus resurrects. Jesus appears to Mary, then to His disciples. A few days pass.]
Peter: I’m goin fishin.
[They go fishing. They see random man on shore.]
John: Bro! Bro! That’s Jesus!
[Peter jumps out the boat and runs to Jesus. Jesus cooks some fish for him and the disciples.]
Jesus: Peter, do you love me?
Jesus: Feed my folk…You love me, for real?
Peter: Man, you know I do.
Jesus: Love on my folk…You really love me, ride or die?
Peter: Jesus…you know everything. You know I love you.
Jesus: Take care of my folk. And Peter…when you’re old, you’ll face something you didn’t ever want nor intend to.
Jesus: You’re gonna follow me.
At the end of his life, Peter was executed by crucifixion. He followed Jesus, the very thing he at first swore to do but couldn’t because he was pridefully relying on his own strength and might. But, after his spectacular failure and at the end of his life, he was able to follow Jesus, even to death on the cross. Tradition says that he requested to be crucified upside down, feeling unworthy to die in the same manner as His friend and Lord.
Peter. The prideful, foot-in-mouth, fight or flight survival mode, confused, hot-headed, impulsive and hot mess of a fisherman disciple wasn’t ready to follow Jesus to death at first, despite all his blustering and grand declarations of “ride-or-die-wit-u-bromie.” He thought he was, but he ended up running like a coward when being life-or-death confronted with the question of his loyalty and friendship, his love and commitment.
This is why I love him so much. He could’ve let his failure, his rejection and denial of his Master and Friend, define the rest of his life. He could’ve given in to despair, self-righteous condemnation, guilt, shame…he could’ve hung himself or cut off relationship with the other disciples and Jesus.
But oh, Peter’s brazenness. The first to run right into the empty tomb after Mary came with the news that the grave was empty. He didn’t linger outside–he straight up went into that grave, walked around in it, upturned every rock and stone like a bull in a china shop, I imagine. Later, when he saw Jesus from the boat, he straight jumped out into the ocean, swam and bolted to shore to get to His Friend. To let Jesus know he was sorry. To let Jesus know he’d never again deny him. To let Jesus know–he believed.
He believed in second chances, he believed in redemption, he believed that his failure was not the end of this story or this relationship. He believed in the virtue and kindness and power of his Friend and Lord.
Beloved, at some point in our lives we may (or maybe we already have) fail Christ or fail our loved ones. We may deny Christ in our cowardice and fear of man, in our loving ourselves more than we love him. We may hurt, betray, deny, throw momentarily away those we claim to love the most.
But I want us to be really encouraged by this brazen believing faithful Peter…be encouraged by his pride, his failure, his surrender, his redemption, his bravery, his brazenness, his passion, his crucifixion, his life.
The point is this: our beginnings don’t matter as much to God as how we finish.
You failed, it happens. But in that lowest place, God’s grace and holiness encounters us. He empowers and exhorts us to get up and start running again, a changed man or woman who won’t make that same mistake twice. Who’s ready to truly follow Jesus–even unto death on a cross.