Have you ever told yourself, “I will never do that?” You look at bad decisions that other people make and you think that you could never make such a mistake. Maybe you think you are too good to do that kind of thing. Whatever the reason is, it is easy for us to do this, and this is exactly what Peter does.
Peter is one of the first disciples called by Jesus. He’s fishing, like he does everyday, with Andrew, and Jesus walks by and says, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Scripture says that both Peter and Andrew “immediately” drop their nets and follow Jesus. There was not a second thought in their minds. Little did they know, they were following Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Peter follows Jesus all the way through His ministry. He knows Jesus well, and is confident in his relationship with Jesus. In fact, right before Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter goes so far as to tell Jesus that he will never deny Him. Peter must have thought, “I’m too good to deny Jesus” or, “ I love Jesus way too much to deny Him.” But we know that this isn’t the story.
Jesus tells Peter, “truly I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (Matthew 26:34). Can you imagine how Peter must have felt? The Bible says that Peter tried to reassure Jesus and defend himself, saying, “even if I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Matthew 26:35). That is not a small claim to make. Unfortunately, we see Peter crumble when what Jesus foreshadowed becomes reality.
Jesus is arrested and Peter follows Jesus to the high priest. On his way, a girl asks Peter, “You also are one of this man’s disciples, are you?” Peter, probably scared and ashamed, answers the girl, simply saying, “I am not” (John 18:17). Later, Peter stands with others around a fire and he is again asked, “You are also one of his disciples, are you?” And again Peter responds simply with, “I am not.” The man whose ear Peter cut off questions Peter asking, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Once again, Peter denies the claim, and the rooster crows (John 18:25-27).
Imagine being Peter when the rooster crows. His heart must be sinking in his chest. What is going through his mind? “Jesus was right. I denied Him.” He must be flooded with guilt and shame. He has to watch as Jesus was crucified, realizing that he denied his friend and Savior.
After Jesus is crucified and placed in the tomb, Peter assumes it is time to move on. So, he goes back to the life that he knew before Jesus and goes fishing with some friends. They fish all throughout the night and catch nothing. Jesus finds them and calls to them from the shore saying, “Children, do you have any fish?” They admit to Jesus that they haven’t caught anything. Jesus tells them to “cast their net on the right side of the boat” and they will find fish. Their nets fill with so many fish that they can’t bring them to shore. John realizes that it was Jesus who called to them from the shore. Upon hearing this, Peter immediately grabs his jacket, jumps in the water and swims to shore. Jesus invites Peter and the others to have breakfast with Him (John 21:2-14).
Peter’s story is one of redemption. Peter was certain he would never deny Jesus. However, Peter is humbled through doing the one thing he said he would never do. Though Peter becomes filled with guilt and shame because of his actions, he finds that he is ultimately defined by who he is in and through Jesus Christ.
We can learn many things from Peter but we will focus on just one. Whatever you have done or wherever you have been, there is always grace for you. You can always swim back to shore and run to Jesus. You can always go to Him knowing that He loves you and that nothing will ever separate you from His redeeming grace that was given to us by His death on the cross. Do not let sin, choices, or mistakes keep you from going to Him. When Jesus died, He declared, “It is finished.” Rest in that grace today.
- Ryan Hubner (Student Ministry Coordinator)