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For Those Who Have Failed

Frank Friedmann

There are so many believers, who even though they know they have been forgiven in Christ, still carry a weight of guilt and shame over what they have done. Many even go so far as to believe that they have been disqualified from ministry, and God will never use them again. This is tragic, and unfortunately, epidemic in the body of Christ. So today, Today I want to encourage you who are in that camp of guilt and shame, with one of the most amazing passages in the entire Bible.

As you know, the Apostle Peter is one who failed in the worst way. Around a campfire, in the moment of our Savior’s greatest need, the big, burly fisherman became terrified at the accusation of a young girl. She proclaimed that Peter was one of the Lord’s disciples, but Peter denied he even knew Jesus. Not long after, two men affirmed that Peter was a disciple, but Peter again denied he knew Jesus. Not once, or twice, but three times he did so, the last denial coming with a mouthful of cursing and swearing. The Scriptures record that at the moment of his third denial, the Lord Jesus turned and looked at Peter (Luke 22:61.)

I have often wondered about that look from the Savior, as so many other Bible teachers have as well. Was it a look of frustration or disappointment? Clearly not, for Jesus had already told Peter that He would deny three times. Jesus, was not caught off guard and certainly had no expectations of Peter shining like gold in this circumstance.

Perhaps it was a look of frustration or anger. No, I don’t believe so. Again, Jesus had no expectations of a courageous Peter. Jesus knew the real Peter. He knew that in spite of Peter’s bravado, he was nothing more than a weak, frail, human being. Was it a look of, “I told you so,” or a stern, critical or judgmental look? No, I believe what follows affirms that it was a look of compassion, mixed with some sorrow. It certainly grieves His heart when we make choices that bring horrible consequences into our lives. He hates for us, his children, to endure those consequences. I have no doubt, that above all, it was a look of love. Please pay close attention to how Jesus ministers His mercy, grace, and love to Peter.

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples, and affirmed He was alive from the dead. He told them to go to the sea of Tiberias and wait for Him there. They went fishing, but caught nothing. A man appeared on the shore and told them to try the other side of the boat. Upon doing so, they hauled in a huge catch of fish. Peter, crying out that it was the Lord, left the fish behind and dove into the water to swim to His blessed Savior.

Jesus, the master tactician, had staged the scene very well. He had built a campfire for the fish to be cooked. Around the campfire, Jesus began to inquire. Three times Jesus will ask, “Simon, do you love Me?” Do not read that lightly. I am sure that Peter did not need a reminder of how he had failed. Failure has a way of reverberating in our minds, and does not need outside help to keep those memories alive and intense. I trust you noticed, that Jesus used his old name, Simon, instead of Peter, the new name Jesus had given him. This was a “not so subtle” reminder that Peter was not acting like the new man he was in Christ. So, why did Jesus do that? It sounds so cruel of Him to remind Peter of what He had done.

The key lies not in Peter’s response, though it was a good response. Yes, Peter loved His Lord, but the exasperation of how to harmonize his love with his faulty behavior certainly perplexed him. The third time the Lord questioned Peter’s love, the text says that Peter was grieved. Yes, he had failed three times. And yes, Jesus had just reminded him of those three failures, questioning if Simon, really did love Jesus. All Peter could do was cry out, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” (John 21:17).

It was if as if Peter was saying, “Lord, I know my behavior does not line up with my love, and I don’t know how to explain what I did. My behavior betrays my love, and looks like unloved, but Lord, you know the heart. You know that I love you, even though I acted like I don’t.” I am very familiar with Peter’s response, for my behavior is sometimes contrary to my love for Him. Can you relate as well?

What Jesus did next, stuns me! His response to Peter’s three declarations of love was, “Feed My sheep.” Oh, my goodness, did you see it? What had Peter been called to do before his failure? Feed the flock of Jesus. What is Jesus telling Peter to do after his failure? To feed the flock of Jesus. Jesus was telling Peter, “Nothing has changed between us. Before your failure, you were my chosen vessel. After your failure, you are still My chosen vessel. You are still the one I want to teach, shepherd, and lead my children.” In spite of his horrible failure, Jesus would not allow that failure to keep Peter from doing what Jesus had called him to do. Maybe it was even “BECAUSE OF HIS FAILURE” that Jesus affirmed he was still to minister. Let me explain.

I like to think of this account as Peter’s ordination. At an ordination, a man is questioned of His Bible knowledge and understanding to assure that he is equipped to minister the truth. It is readily obvious here, that Peter’s ordination centered on the incredible grace of God and the compassion in which that grace is administered. With each affirmed call on Peter’s life, Jesus was ordaining him into the ministry, as one who understood grace, because he received grace in such an overwhelming abundance and transforming power. I would like to paraphrase this passage this way, Jesus is asking, “Peter, do you understand grace and compassion?” And Peter’s stunned and very humble response is,

“Yes, Lord, I have experienced it personally from your very lips.”

Years later, when the church is suffering great persecution, it is Peter, the big, burly fisherman who assumes the role of shepherd to write a letter to the church, in order to comfort, encourage, and strengthen them. The fisherman had become a shepherd, because he passed his ordination and was equipped through personal experience to minister grace and compassion. WOW!

Dear One, if you have failed, please know that YOU may have think you have disqualified yourself from ministry, but Jesus has not disqualified you. Quite the contrary, if you would only understand the glory of this passage, your failure can be a powerful tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit to equip you with His grace as you experience His total and complete forgiveness and restoration. Having been ordained into His grace, you can now fulfill your calling to freely give to others the glory of the grace that you have received. Through your receiving grace personally, and expressing grace relationally, you are going to be a dangerous man or woman in the kingdom.

I am stunned. I hope you are too, devastated by His love...

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