There are all sorts of ways to kick tires on a sales pitch. One tried a true way is, a testimonial. A before and after. Peter was a fisherman, just a regular guy, a girl next door type. Jesus asks this average Joe, Peter, to follow him. But that’s not where the story ends. Yes, Peter follows. But he also denies. To see a full testimonial, a clearer before and after, you have to watch all the way to the end. Confronted by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, Peter could no longer deny what he came to believe.
The before and after for you may not follow Peter’s script precisely. But the boldness that comes from lasting security is part of the package. So is the peace. The joy. The courage. The hope. A hope that even death cannot touch. Before and an eternal after.
Come to me, says Jesus, and I will give you rest for your soul.
I did a ropes course a few years back. My favorite part was the end. No kidding. The ropes course was a part of a couple marriage retreat in Colorado. The setting was breathtaking with mountains in view and a white water river below. Each couple set out together to face a variety of obstacles. As I was being strapped into a harness and tethered to the wire above, I wasn’t worried about falling to my death. What bothered me was that on my very first obstacle, my foot slipped off the wire below and I crashed into two vertical logs. Ouch! I felt an immediate bruise on my shoulder. I was frustrated and embarrassed. I was ready to get off at the nearest exit. But there was only one way out: getting past every obstacle on the course.
Have you ever found yourself wanting an escape hatch when there wasn’t one?
Peter, a disciple of Jesus, was desperately looking for a way of escape when he denied Jesus.
Peter followed Jesus closely and was very protective of Jesus. Peter thought it ridiculous when Jesus said that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed. Then Peter’s world was turned upside down when Jesus was arrested and taken before the Roman and religious leaders.
“Weren’t you one of his disciples?”
Peter was asked this question by three different people. Each time he adamantly denied knowing Jesus. Then the rooster crowed.
I can only imagine how hearing the rooster and remembering his conversation with Jesus must have pierced his heart and soul.
For Peter, the story then goes from horrible to horrific as Jesus is killed on the cross. There was no opportunity to ask for forgiveness, for reconciliation, or restoration of the relationship. Peter knew that Jesus knew what he had done.
But now, not only was Jesus dead, but Peter was left with all the guilt and shame of his actions.
But we know the story doesn’t end there. Friday was devastating but Sunday was Resurrection Day, the day that Jesus rose from the dead.
Jesus died and rose from the grave for us all. You might know and agree with that statement. But let’s make it a bit more personal…Jesus died and rose from the grave for you. Not because you or any of us are worthy, but because we are loved.
Jesus died and rose again for Peter. Not because Peter was worthy. Jesus died and rose again because He loved Peter.
After Jesus’ resurrection, He had a very personal conversation with Peter. When Jesus motioned Peter over for a talk, I wonder if Peter tried to get out of the one-on-one meeting.
I think of times I tried to sneak away when I did something wrong as a kid. Even now there are times I avoid people when I think they aren’t pleased with me. Conversations that are difficult are obstacles that I’d rather avoid.
These situations stretch us way out of our comfort zone. We’d rather quietly go off and hide somewhere until the dust settles. These kind of conversations cause our stomachs to turn over because the guilt and shame we carry is no longer allowed to be kept hidden away. It feels a bit like emotional and spiritual surgery. And like any surgery, there’s pain before the healing begins.
That’s how I imagine Peter felt as Jesus called him over to have a talk. You wish there was another way or at least somewhere to hide.
Jesus begins by asking three times if Peter loved him. Each time, Peter affirmed his love. “Yes, Jesus…Yes, Jesus…Yes, Jesus, I love you.”
Was Peter annoyed at having to answer the same question three times? Did he feel like Jesus was rubbing his nose in his failures? Maybe.
But with each question, Jesus was leading Peter through a process of restoration and transformation.
Restoration and transformation are lovely words. Restoration is an act of returning to an original condition. Think of a piece of antique furniture that’s been kept in a cold basement. It gets warped and loses its original shine and beauty. Restoring it involves sand paper and stain, scraping and repairing. The result of restoration is lovely, but the process is grueling.
Peter had to be restored by Jesus. In his three denials, his heart was warped by shame and despair. But through this conversation with Jesus, he was restored.
Not only was Peter restored, but he was also transformed or changed. Thinking of transformation, it helps to imagine a caterpillar inside a chrysalis. The caterpillar essentially breaks apart inside this casing as it transforms into a butterfly. But the beautiful thing about this transformation is that the caterpillar doesn’t do any work—it just surrenders to the chrysalis and the transformation happens naturally.
Denying Jesus undid Peter. But Jesus took Peter in his undone state and began a process of changing him from the inside. As Peter surrendered to Jesus, he emerged changed and strengthened to do ministry in even greater ways than before.
With each affirmation of his love, Peter was given an opportunity to experience restoration and transformation. These occurred, not because Peter was worthy, but because Peter was loved by Jesus.
Even though this conversation might have been uncomfortable and awkward, if they had not had this talk, there would have been serious long-term consequences for Peter’s emotional and spiritual well-being.
This is where Peter’s story intersects with our stories. None of us are worthy. All of us have messed up. Our feet have slipped and we have ended up hurt and scared. We want to exit the ropes course. Coast. Hide. Isolate.
But in our isolation and hiddenness, Jesus invites us to come to Him. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable. We will most likely have to work through our own restoration and transformation. But Jesus’ redeeming love meets us with wide open arms.
Are you willing for Jesus to do a work of restoration in your life? What needs to be renewed in you?
Are you willing for Jesus to do a work of transformation in your life? Where is He inviting you to surrender to Him?
Don’t stall or look for the escape hatch. Look to Jesus to carry you through each obstacle and rely on His strength. He desires to show you the unforced rhythms of grace and to give you rest, a true rest. He desires to restore and transform you into exactly what you are intended to be. You are safe in His hands and you are dearly loved.