Bible Studies for Life

with Clay Anthony

Sunday,  July 23

A Fresh Start

John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-19

The late Jerry Bridges remarked: Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace. Can you relate? I can and I am sure that Peter could as well. In today’s text, we see Peter undergo a grand transformation from one who was close enough to Jesus to touch him yet move to a position of denying Him three times. We know the embarrassment took its toll on Peter. The other gospel accounts all end this scene with Peter leaving and going off to “weep bitterly”.

Peter had been rescued by Jesus, trained by Jesus and inspired by Jesus. Now the one who was willing to draw a weapon to defend Jesus (vs. 10) was denying any knowledge of Him. How does this happen? How can one that is so close to Jesus find himself so far removed from where he is meant to be? Further, why did it happen? Two simple questions were asked of Peter (vs. 17, 25), “Are you a follower?” Many people had “followed” Jesus and witnessed His miracles. No harm in admitting so. Peter was then approached by a relative of the man whose ear he had earlier cut off (vs. 26) and asked the same question. Was Peter fearful of being found out of raising the sword against the Temple leadership?

These issues were at play and Peter is at a loss. We might not have full disclosure of what Peter’s thought process was but we can relate to his failure to represent Jesus and his need for a fresh start.

Just like us – 18:15-18, 25-27

Admit it, each time we read of a Biblical character’s failure, there is a tinge of our ego that thinks, “Not me.” Surely you and I know better than Abraham, David or Peter. How could these people that lived so close to God make such horrible messes? Truth is I too have found myself denying a relationship with Jesus. Not just in my failures to speak up but also in my failures to love others or extend grace.

Peter had denied Jesus three times just as had been predicted. (13:38) Each of his denials were a simple reply to whether he was Jesus’ follower: “I am not.” Earlier in this chapter Jesus was asked a series of questions to which He boldly answered in the affirmative: “I am.” (vs. 4,6,8) How easy it would have been to simply say, “I am His follower.” Sure facing an angry group of religious leaders bent on your punishment would have deterred Peter but for us today, what are we facing? Why is such a response from us just as difficult?

Just like Jesus – 21:15-19

Peter had failed to understand Jesus’ ultimate work in redemption. (13:7-8, 37-38) He was ready to take up arms to protect Jesus. On the outside that appears to be an honorable trait and yet Peter follows outside bravery with inside fear as he denies Jesus. Where was his sword and quick temper at the courtyard fire? Peter failed. He failed in his understanding of Jesus’ mission. He had failed in representing Jesus when given the chance. Again, from the outside it looks as if Jesus’ mission was in tatters as He is isolated by cowardly disciples.

Fast forward to post-Easter and who could blame Jesus for holding ill feelings towards Peter and the others? That would certainly make Jesus more like us but it is just like Jesus to be unlike us and restore Peter. Note in vs. 17 that Peter was hurt or “grieved” by Jesus’ repeated questions of love. Peter was not offended by the questions, he was broken. He had denied Jesus and that was a terrible weight. The gracious Jesus had lifted that burden and Peter’s response was tears.

Live It Out

What a great lesson for us. We are guaranteed to fail in our Christian walk yet we hold a guarantee that Jesus holds out hope to us in grace. Yes, you and I have often made bold predictions of how we are going to live for Jesus just as Peter did (13:37) and failed miserably just as Peter did. As often as we fail, Jesus is quick to restore us. True, we need the grace of Jesus to save us from hell. We also need His grace to sustain through everyday life.

Anthony is director of the Collaborative Missionary Network, Oxford/Holly Springs.