God blessed me with a rich season of Lent, and a Holy Week during which I felt His presence. I hope the same was true for you.
Unfortunately, though, it didn’t take me long to duck away from His presence here and there as soon as Easter was over, returning to some things God had put on my heart to give up for Lent and beyond. I don’t know why I did this. I was so frustrated and disappointed in myself. It had seemed so easy to give things up during Lent, and then almost impossible to avoid them the day after the season ended.
Did you experience anything like this over the last week?
If so, welcome to the human race.
I don’t say this as an excuse for doing things we wish God didn’t see. Instead, I say it to remind myself and all of us that there was only one perfect person in the whole Bible–Jesus.
But what about all the famous people in the Bible? you may ask. What about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? Nope, all flawed. Moses? No, he was a murderer. David? Sorry, the whole story surrounding Bathsheba brought him down to our level.
One of the things I love about the Bible is that it’s full of stories of flawed people accomplishing great things for God simply because they trusted Him and walked Him like they would a best friend. Also, this is another reason why I find the Bible to be so believable–if you were going to make up a religion, you would not admit so freely that the people who carried the narrative forward were so broken and ordinary, so much like you and me.
In fact, what I experienced this past week closely resembled what happened to Peter. He had been one of Jesus’ closest and most trusted friends. Jesus had said He was going to build His church on the rock that was Peter. When Jesus had been describing what was going to happen to Him, Peter bravely declared that he would follow Jesus through it all, including to the grave, if necessary.
But Jesus told him otherwise. He prophesied that Peter would abandon Him when He needed His close friends the most.
And Peter did just that–He denied knowing Jesus three times.
So I wonder how Peter had been feeling up to, and even after, Jesus’ resurrection. If it were me, I would have been wondering how in world I was going to be able to live with myself, knowing that I had abandoned my best friend–especially one whom I had believed to be my Messiah–during such terrible moments. I can imagine Jesus’ words rattling around my brain, breaking off little pieces of sanity as they went: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”
But Jesus, our compassionate Savior, must have known how Peter would be feeling. In fact, in Mark’s retelling of the story when some of the women followers of Christ discovered the empty tomb, he points out that the angel specifically called out Peter by name:
This doesn’t mean that the angel was characterizing Peter as not being one of Jesus’ disciples. It means that Jesus must have lovingly directed the angel to mention Peter because He knew that Peter’s heart would be aching because of his denial of Jesus.
The story gets even better.
Chapter 21 of John’s gospel describes it. Distraught with grief, Peter and the other fishermen must have decided to return to their prior profession, since evidently this “Jesus’ disciple” thing wasn’t going to work out after all. After Jesus gave them another miraculous haul of fish, Peter jumped out of the boat early and ran to see Jesus–an exuberant returning to God.
And what did Jesus say to His friend? None of the things I probably would have said (“Well I warned you!”, or “It went down just like had said it would!”, or even “See, you need to listen to me!”). Nope, not Jesus. He pulled His friend to the side. Knowing how much Peter had been beating himself up, Jesus lovingly restored him. You may be wondering why Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Jesus (see John 21 verses 15, 16, and 17), to the point where it seemed to be hurting Peter’s feelings. I think it was to match the number of times Peter had denied Him. It was as if each time Jesus asked Peter the question and Peter responded, Jesus was erasing one of Peter’s denials.
He was fully restoring His beloved friend.
Thankfully, it’s the same story for me, the same story for you. When (not if) we screw up, when we turn our backs on Jesus, we only have to change direction from our broken ways and return to Him. In fact, here is the description of the Greek word for repentance from Wikipedia:
The Greek term for repentance, metanoia, denotes a change of mind, a reorientation, a fundamental transformation of outlook, of man’s vision of the world and of himself, and a new way of loving others and God.Wikipedia article on “Metanoia”
Like Peter, when we realize we need to do this, we should jump out of the boat so we can get to Jesus as quickly as possible. We shouldn’t worry about getting wet or what kind of mess it will make. Just get to Jesus.
Because Jesus told us in the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) what He will be doing:
He will also be running to us as we run toward Him. He’ll throw His arms around us. He’ll kiss us. Nothing dignified about it, so overjoyed is He that we came back.
He will restore us. He restores me, erasing each one of the bad things I’ve done, setting me back to the way I was when I was walking with Him each day.
For that, I am forever thankful. It’s another Resurrection Day.