John 18:15–18, 25b–27; 21:15–19; Acts 4:13, 18–20comment (0)
October 25, 2012
By David Hogg
Related Scripture: John 18:15–18, 25b–27; 21:15–19
Bible Studies for Life
Academic Dean at Beeson Divinity School, Samford UniversityFrom Failure to Action
John 18:15–18, 25b–27; 21:15–19; Acts 4:13, 18–20
Denying Christ (John 18:15–18, 25–27)
If you are a parent or have had the opportunity to watch small children, you will know that from time to time children try their very best to act like grown-ups. Many of us have probably seen the toddler who has tried valiantly and innocently to help mommy with the new baby, but the help is more of a hindrance. Even as adults we sometimes do the wrong thing despite having the right motives.
But what about Peter in John 18? Did he do the wrong thing despite having the right motives? Absolutely not. Peter did something much worse. He did the wrong thing for the wrong motives. Peter was seeking to save himself and in doing so lied about his friendship with Jesus.
Here is monumental failure; failure at the most significant moment in the history of humanity. But even as we recognize Peter’s fault we should be careful to remember that Jesus forgave.
Indeed, when every other disciple ran away and hid, Peter loved Christ enough to try to stay with Him. When abandonment was all Jesus received from family, friends and disciples, Peter could not bring himself to desert his Savior. Nevertheless, Peter was not strong enough to stand in the moment of truth. If the spirit was willing in the Garden of Gethsemane, it had grown fearful and timid in the court of the high priest.
So why is this story and Jesus’ subsequent forgiveness of Peter included in the Gospel accounts? It is here, in part, to help us see that when God’s children fail Him, even when that failure is motivated by poor motives, forgiveness is still available.
The devil may tempt us to believe that forgiveness is no longer available, that pardon is too far away, that our failure is too great to overcome.
John is telling us that the Jesus who forgave Peter stands ready to forgive you.
Do You Really Love Christ? (John 21:15–19)
Now it is one thing to affirm the truth that Jesus forgives us of our sin, but it is another matter altogether to live in the light of this truth. As we have just affirmed, sometimes there is a tremendous temptation to believe that with some failures we have crossed a line. What hope is there for me now? Surely I am not worthy anymore to serve Christ and His Church?
The good news to these kinds of questions is twofold. First, the good news is that you were never worthy in the first place. You did not enter into the kingdom of God by your worthiness, and you could never hope to stay in it by your own worthiness. The admission of unworthiness is a necessary part of a life characterized by humble repentance. Second, the good news is that the hope that saved you on the day you first repented and believed remains sure. Why? Because the guarantee of hope is not found in you, but in God.
Looking at these final verses in John, though, we are reminded that we need to be vigilant to match our practice to our profession. If we say that we love Jesus we must work to live a life that is characterized by obedience.
After Peter denied Christ, Jesus asked Peter three times about his love. This was a reminder to Peter that he would face similar situations in the future and eventually die for Christ. Forgiveness is available, but love and obedience are not optional.
Do You Stand Up for Christ? (Acts 4:13,18–20)
While in John’s Gospel we learn what not to do from Peter’s example, in Acts we learn what to do. Yes, we must learn to speak boldly for Christ. Yes, we must speak the truth in love. But more than these we learn that our failures do not disqualify us from continuing to serve our Savior. We will fall in serving Christ, but He will raise us up that we might continue to stand for Him.