In Hawaii they have a phrase they use for looking at someone with a harsh expression. They call it “stink eye.” And I think sometimes we may feel that God is collectively giving stink eye to all of us. But that is not true at all. God sees us for what we can become.
Jesus gave Simon a new name, Peter, which meant “rock.” I wonder if the other disciples laughed to themselves when Jesus said it: This is a joke, right? Jesus is kidding. If there is anything Simon is not, it is a rock. He is impetuous. He is impulsive, hotheaded. He’s far too quick to speak his mind when he should just be quiet. He is not a rock. But Jesus saw Simon for what he would become.
In the same way, we might see a lump of clay, but God sees a beautiful vase. We see a blank canvas, but God sees a finished painting. We see a piece of coal, but God sees a refined diamond. We see problems, but God sees solutions. We see failure, but God sees potential. We see an end, but God sees a new beginning.
You might be thinking, Well, I have failed horribly in the past. I have good news for you. God can forgive you. And he can recommission you. We see that played out beautifully in a story we find in the New Testament book of Matthew.
Jesus was celebrating the Last Supper with his disciples when he dropped this revelation on them: “Tonight all of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, ‘God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered'” (Matthew 26:31 NLT).
Luke’s version of this same story adds a detail we don’t find in Matthew. Jesus went on to say, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren'” (Luke 22:31–32 NKJV).
That is kind of a scary thought. Imagine yourself sitting there with Jesus, and he says to you, “Oh, by the way, the devil has been asking for you by name.”
You see, the devil is not the equal of God. He can only be in one place at one time. God, on the other hand, is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. While the devil knows some things, he can only be in one place at one time, and his power is limited.
For the devil himself to actually request someone is significant. And why would he request Peter? Maybe it was because he saw him as a threat. Maybe he thought Peter was trouble. God is not the only one who recognizes leadership. The devil does, too. And he often sets his sights on those whom he sees as the greatest threat to his kingdom.
But Jesus went on to tell Peter, “But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” In other words, “Yes, Peter you will have a lapse. You will wander away. You will deny me. But you will learn from it, and you will become a better man for it, and as a result, you will be able to bring words of encouragement to others.”
Peter had no idea that a storm was brewing. He never realized that his world was to change very soon. Jesus was arrested and taken to the high priest’s house. And Peter, following at a distance, became cold and attracted to the warmth of the fire – the enemy’s fire. At this point, he was worn down, defeated, weak and vulnerable. Yes, he was following Jesus, but at a distance.
Why was he even there? Matthew tells us, “Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and sat with the guards and waited to see how it would all end” (Matthew 26:58 NLT). Peter had forgotten all that Jesus had said about his resurrection from the dead. He was just waiting for the end – the end of Jesus’ life … the end of his dream … the end of everything he held dear. But it was not the end. It was going to be a new beginning.
Peter’s problem was that he was in the wrong place with the wrong people about to do the wrong thing. And that is what happens when we fall into sin. You are always in the wrong place with the wrong people. And you do the wrong thing.
Ultimately, Peter ended up denying that he knew Jesus not once, not twice, but three times – just as Jesus had predicted. Then Peter remembered the words of Jesus. And he went out and wept bitterly because of his sin.
But then three days later, Jesus rises from the dead. And Mary is given a message by an angel at the tomb to deliver to the apostles: “Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee” (Mark 16:7, emphasis mine).
Why did he say “including Peter”? Because Peter needed some encouragement, that’s why. He thought the party was over. There was no hope for him. There was no future for him. But Jesus wanted Peter to know that he had risen from the dead and that he remembered him.
God’s love for us never changes; it is always there. That is why the apostle John referred to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. That was not arrogant. He simply was acknowledging that he knew Jesus loved him. And you need to know that Jesus loves you – even if you have fallen.
Do you feel that way right now? That you have fallen, that you have messed up? As God said through the prophet Jeremiah, “My wayward children, come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts” (Jeremiah 3:22). So remember where you were before you fell, return, and repent of your sin. Then start living as God wants you to live.