After years of walking with Jesus, seeing His miracles, and being convinced that He was Israel’s Messiah, Peter was sure that he would always stand by Jesus – in this life, and in the life to come.
In fact, Jesus had just said (Luke 22:28-30) that His core group of disciples had stood by Him in His trials, and that He would grant them a place in His coming kingdom.
What could go wrong?
So Jesus turns to Peter and says, essentially, “You’re about to fail.” Not utterly – He sets in stone the fact that He has prayed for Peter, that his faith will not totally fail – and, in fact, He tells Peter that when he has “turned again” from his denial of the Lord, he needs to strengthen his brothers.
Peter, you’re going to know abject spiritual failure. But you will know My sustaining power, and you will still know future usefulness. No other promises have been canceled out, and Peter’s identity as a loved and valued disciple is secure.
And so it happened. Jesus was apprehended. Peter was recognized as one of His followers. And, in fear of being “outed” and suffering with his Lord, he vehemently denied that he knew Jesus. Three times.
And he was received with forgiveness and grace by his risen Lord, and rose up to bold usefulness and leadership in the nascent church.
It’s an uncomfortable part of discipleship. Spiritual failure teaches us about ourselves – our weaknesses, our temptations, our needs. And it teaches us about our Lord – His kindness, His long-suffering, His renewing power. We often don’t like to talk about it because it casts us in a bad light. A true light, in fact. But it also puts the spotlight on a gracious God, which is far more important than our precious reputation.
I’ve known more spiritual failure than I care to think about. It’s embarrassing and humiliating. At times, it makes me want to no longer even try to lift up my hand – after all, I might just fail again.
But weakness is not the point. His grace and pardon and strengthening hands are what really counts.
I might mess up again, but….what would you have me do for You today, Lord?