Right before Jesus appears before Pilate to be questioned, we see a tragic scene with Peter. Peter most likely gets caught up in the fear of being persecuted as Jesus is being persecuted and denies that he is one of Jesus’ followers three times. The first three gospel writers end the scene with Peter saying:
And he went out and wept bitterly -Matthew 26:75, Mark 14: 72, Luke 22:62
This seems an appropriate reaction for Peter. When we make mistakes and notice we fail in being a follower of Christ, hopefully we are struck with disappointment as well.
It’s kind of like when we get baptized. When we put Christ on in our lives through baptism, we see life as a clean slate. And our hearts have no intention of sinning again.
But then we do… and the guilt can weigh us down.
If we fast forward from Peter’s denial to the end of the book of John, after Jesus has risen, we see an interesting interaction between Jesus and Peter. In John 21, Peter is asked by Jesus three times if he loves Jesus. His response each time is a resounding YES! Three times, Peter denied Christ, and said no, then three times he accepts Christ and says yes! Jesus’ response each time Peter says he loves Him:
Feed my lambs – John 21:15
Tend my sheep – John 21:16
Follow me – John 21:19
It seems that Jesus has forgiven Peter during this final interaction. This is a big deal, because I would assume Peter held on to his guilt about denying Christ for a very long time. Yet Jesus knew that Peter would deny him, and forgave Peter even before the denial took place.
Jesus doesn’t want us to hold on to grief and failure. He wants us to be forgiven so we can find the joy He provides. He instructs Peter, the failure, to reach out through actions (feed my lambs), encourage people closer to Christ (tend my sheep), and follow Him (be His disciple).
We can live knowing we have and will continue to sin, and be miserable, or we can find His forgiveness which leads to joy. Without Jesus’ forgiveness, we won’t be able to be His true disciple. He forgave Peter, He forgives you too.