Luke 22:31-34 – Jesus prays for Peter’s faith not to fail, but tells him that he will fail miserably by denying knowing Jesus.
Luke 5:1-11 – Jesus gave Peter a great catch of fish and calls him to become a fisher of men as he fell in humility at Jesus’ feet.
John 6:67-69 – Jesus asked if the twelve would abandon him and Peter declared that there was know one else to turn to because Jesus was the only one with words of life
Matthew 16:15-24 – Jesus asked who the disciples thought he really was and Peter rightly answered that he was, “…the Christ, the son of the living God.” Then when Peter began to argue with Jesus, Jesus called him, “Satan” and told him to back off.
John 21:1-19 – After his resurrection, Jesus appeared on the shoreline as the disciples, led by Peter, were fishing. Jesus asked Peter about his love for him.
Do you struggle with doubt? Most everyone does at one time or another. I have known many great saints that struggle with doubt in the face of an overwhelming trial. When we struggle with doubt a common question emerges. Does doubt mean that a person has no faith? Not necessarily. In fact, I would say that most people struggling with doubt are not faithless. Doubt is commonly a conflict generated by the need to continue to rely on faith in the face of some great struggle. In that case, doubt is not even possible without faith!
Have you ever struggled with the guilt and shame of failure? So many have suffered some catastrophic moral and spiritual failure. It may have been a fall back into an old practice of sin or a choice that you can’t believe you made, that led to sin that not only broke God’s law but broke you. It broke you because you could not imagine that you would ever do something like that. Those kinds of failures hurt and can be hard to overcome. Do failures like these indicate that a person is faithless and hopeless? Not if what Jesus told Peter is true.
In Luke 22:31-34 Jesus told Peter that he was praying that Peter’s faith would not fail but then immediately told him he would fail. Specifically, he told Peter he would deny knowing him three times over. His prayer is not what you expect. You may assume that Jesus’ prayer would mean that if Peter’s faith did not fail, that Peter will not fail. But Jesus told him, that when he turned back he must strengthen his fellow disciples. Peter’s faith would not fail, if it brought him back to Jesus after his failure!
The story of Peter as a disciple is filled with fantastic ups and downs. It starts in his boat with a humbling moment that surrendered him to following Jesus. He had high points of outspoken recognition of Jesus. He also had an overbearing self-confidence that he demonstrated repeatedly. When Jesus told him that he would fail, Peter could not believe it. But that didn’t keep it from happening.
The beauty of Peter’s life is that he did come back, broken, defeated, humble, he came back. The last chapter of John tells us how Jesus received Peter and lifted him up from where he had fallen. He asked him three times, “Do you love me?” I explained in my message that the first two times Jesus used the word agape which is a broad and open word for love. He began by asking Peter if he loved him more than “these,” that is, do you love me more than anyone or anything else? Peter, on the other hand, answered with the Greek word, philos. Philos means brotherly love. The way I phrased it was as, “my bestest friend.” Peter had no promises, no commitment, not decision for Christ. He changed the word to something smaller, simpler. All he came to Jesus with was a desire to be with him. The third time Jesus shifted to asking, “Are you my bestest friend?” Peter’s humility and perhaps his pain shows through as he answers, “You know everything.” Jesus knew everything. He knew everything Peter had done. He knew even before Peter knew, just what Peter would do. Jesus was Peter’s bestest friend. That’s all he can say. That is enough.
Peter’s faith had not failed. Peter had been unfaithful. Then he came back to Jesus. Unfaithful is broken faith, a broken trust. When faith is restored, it brings a broken person to the one who can make them whole. That’s Jesus.