HOW MANY CHANCES DO YOU NEED?
Today, we celebrate the cornerstone belief of Christianity the Resurrection. There is nothing more essential to our belief structure than the resurrection. While our time together is not centering on this belief, we need to recognize that we just had several people testify to it. They have been buried with Christ and raised up to new life, just as He was.
Our study centers on a conversation Jesus has with Peter after He has risen from the dead. You know, the death of Jesus looked like a failure. Peter, and the rest of the disciples were expecting something different. They were expecting an overthrow of Rome and a new kind of kingdom. They were going to be with Jesus all the way, and be His mighty men. But the movement failed. He did not conquer Rome. For Jesus was executed. And when Jesus needed them the most, the disciples scattered. They failed miserably. But what we learn out of this is.
JESUS MAKES SUCCESSES OUT OF FAILURES.
He can take our most miserable failure and make something great out of it. We will find in our study of Peter three stages that we go through for Jesus to make us a success.
I. The first stage we go through for Jesus to make us a success is the FUTILITY stage (John 13:36-38; 18:17, 25-27).
In a conversation that occurs before Judas betrayal, we find this:
Simply, Peter overestimates his own ability. He is arrogant. He has a certain belief in his own strength. So much so, even if the rest of the disciples were to fall away, he would not. He would surpass them all. He was going to stay with Jesus no matter what.
And then the betrayal comes. Judas kisses Jesus and the soldiers move in. Peter found himself surrounded by the Lord's enemies. All of sudden, it became real hard for him to stand by his earlier boast. And you know what they all did they ran. They proved the thing we do not want to do is the very thing that we do. The man, who said that he would not fall away, did follow Jesus, from a distance. Now listen what happens to him.
1. You are not one of his disciples, are you? the girl at the door asked Peter. He replied, I am not.
2. As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, You are not one of his disciples, are you? He denied it, saying, “I am not.
3. One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove? Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow.
Can you imagine what it was like for Peter at this point? He felt like a complete failure. Here, he had been a member of Jesus' inner core group. He had seen miracles that the others had not. He had even seen Jesus in the glory of the transfiguration, with Moses and Elijah. He had had all the advantages. Yet, when push came to shove, when Jesus needed him most, he denied the Lord.
Peter was devastated by his own inability, and the text tells us that he wept bitterly. It was probably his worst moment ever. It broke his heart, for he had violated the trust of the One he loved the most. He had just promised that when all the others fell away, he would be there, and he was not.
Peter teaches us that most of us don't know how sinful we are. We think more highly of our abilities than we ought. So we are shocked when we fall. We prefer to be shocked when someone else falls. That is much easier.
Peter had no one else to blame. He had denied Jesus. He had betrayed Him. He had failed. Does failure have to be a permanent condition?
II. The second stage we go through for Jesus to make us a success is the FRIEND stage (Luke 22:31-32; John 21:15-17).
JESUS HAS PROVIDED FOR OUR FAILINGS
The good news is that our failing does not have to make us a failure. Jesus knew that Peter was going to fail. For Jesus said: Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers. Jesus saw beyond the problem to Peter's heart. He knew the man behind the failure, and it was because of that failure; Jesus had gone to the cross. It was for his sin. It was for his betrayal. Jesus had come to save Peter from his own self-confidence.
The great thing about this is that God doesn't wait until we are cleaned up and acceptable to love us and care for us. Jesus died for us while we were still sinners. Jesus knew that Peter was going to fail. And now he was bringing him back. Jesus wants us to know that there is nothing that can separate us from His love.
If Jesus didn't love Peter, they would not have even had this conversation but Jesus was pursuing Peter. When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these? Yes, Lord, he said, You know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my lambs. Again Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you truly love me? He answered, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, Feed my sheep.
The love of Jesus is steady and cannot be shaken. It is industrial strength. If He did not care, He would not have set up this appointment with Peter. So now it is time for the question Peter, do you love me? He is not asking, Did you distinguish yourself in my service? It is, Do you love me? And Jesus asks it three times. He asks it three times to go along with the three denials.
Now, how Jesus asks these questions and Peter's reply are significant, because they use different words for love. The two words we see here are agape, which is the most powerful type of love, characterized by self-sacrifice. The other word for love is phileo, which is a deep affection as a love between family and siblings. It is intense, but it is not as powerful as agape.
So Jesus's first question is, Do you agape me more than these?
He cannot say anything more or higher within himself. And he was not going to lie. He was not going to say that he had the agape kind of love after he had denied Jesus. He obviously did not have that kind of love for Jesus. He is careful not to promise more than he can deliver.
Peter is right to say that Jesus knows. For Jesus knows the worst about us, and still loves us. He knows the best about us when others do not. He knows what we can be.
Jesus again asks the question, Do you agape me? The reply is the same, You know that I phileo you.
Peter had to own the hurt. You see, you cannot grow from failures until you acknowledge them, own them and learn from them. And Peter is beginning that process. But Jesus isn't done yet. He has to ask one more time. But the question this time is different.
He says, Peter, do you phileo me? This is such a wonderful question even though Peter grieves at its asking. For on this third time, Jesus comes down to Peter's level. Jesus meets us where we are.
Though this question a third time distressed Peter, and he had to feel guilty that Jesus changed it, he had to recognize that it was grace. Peter confirms his love for Jesus and now Jesus owns him.
Now more that ever, Jesus is on Peter's heart. There will be no more denial or betrayal. Now is the time for service.
III. The third stage we go through for Jesus to make us a success is the FUTURE stage (John 21:18-19).
We discover this wonderful truth here is that Jesus frees us from our past and provides new opportunities for us. We are not beyond recovery! Jesus came to call Peter back into the fight
With each question, Peter gets an assignment. He is to be a shepherd in the church. He is to feed my lambs, that is, he is to feed the young, immature believers.
He is to take care of my sheep, that is, he is to shepherd and lead the mature believers.
He is to feed my sheep, but this command is different. The sheep here are little sheep, but not young ones. It is a picture of those that are weak and have difficult lives, but yet, are no less dear.
The Lord doesn't change His mind about us and welcomes us to follow Him. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, Follow me!
The first command that Peter received was, Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men. So, Peter's first command was also His last. Jesus said, Keep on following me! Now, Jesus is also frank with Peter. The life of faith is not for the faint-hearted. He too would someday be led to die, but this time he would make it. The hope of the resurrection would be a true hope for him.
You see, we can live lives like Peter did, boastful and arrogant, and then fail, or we can become as Peter became, humble and ready to serve.
PLEASE NOTE THIS FOLKS
Jesus can take your failure and make you a success. He can turn it around for you. If you have failed Him, you do not need to stay in that pattern. You can know His grace.
Jesus can take your old life and give you a new one. Jesus offered Peter new opportunity. He forgave Him and sent Him on to new responsibility.
Perhaps, you need a new start today. Perhaps, you have fallen behind. Jesus is here today to make you a new creation; old things will pass away, all things become new.
Jesus is offering you the opportunity to change. He is offering you the opportunity today. He is pursuing you. He is out to rescue you. He is ready to make your failures like successes. Now, the question is, “Are you willing? Perhaps an even more important question is, How many chances do you need?
Recognize today the futility of doing it your way, for when we attempt our way over God's, it inevitably leads to the heartache of failure. Recognize today that you have a friend who is pursuing you, his name is Jesus, and you cannot escape his love for you, for he will meet you, right where you are. And recognize today that Jesus wants to give you a hope and a future, for He has plans to free you and prosper you as you follow Him. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all, we ask God, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen.