I’m reminded of a commercial that shows individuals walking around with a paper-faced mask mounted on a stick, and as they greet others, they hold the mask up to hide their authentic selves. Often, because of our leadership roles, we are like that commercial. We welcome others, shake their hands, and make nice, but at times, it is just a facade of our true selves, how we feel, and what we are going through or dealing with.
As much as we like to make others think our lives are neat, we struggle and try to keep it all together. We are not all together on the inside as we are projecting on the outside.
The struggles can be anything like a marriage gone astray, feeling like a failure in your leadership role, issues with depression, or an issue in your past that you keep hidden with the fear that, at any time, it may come out. However, whatever haunts you that can’t escape your past can be solved. Jesus’s encounter with Peter has greatly encouraged me when dealing with failure in myself or others. This can be found in John 21.
What needs to be understood in this story is to comprehend what Peter is going through inside his mind and through his actions. Remember, he had denied Jesus three times. That realization of what he had done was now burned into his psyche. Each time he thought of Jesus, his mind would go directly to that crushing moment of betrayal. He can still hear the rooster crowing as his eyes are locked on his Savior. The Scriptures tell us that Peter went out and wept bitterly. Yet, none of that weeping could ever soothe the pain or wash away the image of the realization of what he had done to the one he loved.
I can imagine the all-consuming failure that Peter must have felt. Peter, the rock, was devastated and crushed, for he believed he would always carry this black mark against Christ in his name.
After the crucifixion of Christ, we find Peter, John, and some of the other disciples in Galilee taking time to fish and contemplate and reflect on all that had recently transpired. They fished all night and did not catch a thing. They encountered a stranger on the shore as they were ready to throw in the towel. As the conversation flows, John realizes who this stranger is and says, “It’s the Lord.”
At this point, you have to love Peter because he is much like many of us in that he can be spontaneous, emotional, and reactionary. What Peter does proves this point as he jumps into the water and starts swimming to shore.
After his spontaneous reaction and frantic swim to the shore, Peter stands before Jesus, dripping wet and not at all any better than before. Remember, he had failed Jesus miserably in his mind, and I am sure he was wondering if the relationship with Jesus could ever be repaired.
The other disciples arrive, and they enjoy breakfast on the beach with Jesus. Once the meal is over, Jesus turns and addresses Peter. The Scriptures do not tell us what is going on in Peter’s mind, but I bet he has all kinds of emotions racing through his mind as his heart is racing and his stomach is churning, waiting for the Words of Jesus to be directed to him alone.
Three simple truths have impacted my life and helped me when I have felt like a failure.
First, Jesus seeks after me. I want you to see the proof in Scripture. In this particular account, we see that Jesus comes and finds Peter and the other disciples. You can be confident of this beautiful spiritual truth. Jesus pursues after us. It does not matter what we may have done or what is in our past; the Lord and Savior of the universe come looking for us!
This fact can be seen throughout the Scriptures.
-First, we find God in the garden looking for Adam and Eve
-After 40 years in the desert, God takes the initiative to meet Moses in a burning bush.
– Jonah, who ran from God’s call to go to Nineveh, had God run after him.
-Now Peter, after he had denied Christ, had returned to his old fishing career. Jesus comes and finds him despite his failure.
Second, Jesus does not hold our past against us. We find Jesus eating with Peter, not rebuking him. Jesus could have brought up his denial of Him, but Jesus did not. I want you to hold on to this significant truth: Jesus is in the grace business, not the guilt business. He is in the healing business, not the humiliation business. He is in the restoration business, not the condemnation business. Romans 8:1 reminds us: “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
And third, Jesus reminds us that our work must still be completed. Jesus tells Peter 3 times, “Feed my lambs…take care of my sheep”. The most important and precious thing to Jesus is people. He knew he would ascend back into heaven, but building His kingdom was far from over. So Jesus tells Peter that He wants him to care for what matters most– people. Jesus places the most valuable possessions into the hands of Peter to take care of.
The issue at this moment was not forgiveness but restoration. Peter moves from resigned to re-instated. Peter is on the sidelines, and Jesus taps him on the shoulder and says, “I want you to get back in the game. I’m not through with you.” He repeated the assignment to Peter 3 times: “Take care of my sheep.” It wasn’t to build a great church or launch a worldwide ministry. It was to care for people.
No matter what failure you are currently dealing with or what the devils mean to destroy you with, God, in His marvelous grace, takes such and molds it into a tool you can use to build His kingdom. This experience for Peter was life-changing. We can see what happens with Peter in Acts chapter 2. Peter stands before a crowd and, with Holy Ghost boldness, preaches the truth of Christ, and 3,000 new converts are added to the church that day.
God was not finished with Peter. His denial and cursing of Christ did not end his ministry but launched it to new heights and dimensions. This should let you know that no matter what has happened in your life, Jesus is not done with you yet!