There is a tendency among Christians to think we have blown it: It could be we get into an argument. It may be that we don’t do what we said we would do. It could be that we fail our own, or others expectations and disillusionment sets in. It could be that we really sinned, or for some reason, we are condemned for an imaginary sin.
Often we take communion wondering if we really are forgiven and restored. There are two great stories of someone failing big time in the New Testament. They had been at the table during what is known as the last supper. He partook in the bread and the wine, which Jesus shared among them this is my body, this is my blood given for you.
One said he would never betray Jesus. But he did. The other had already planned to betray Jesus and he did. And Jesus knew that both Peter and Judas would betray him. He told Judas to go and do what he had to do. And he told Peter, before the night is over, you will betray me not just once… but three times.
Both men after they realized the ramifications of their betrayal grieved deeply. They were both racked by guilt and shame. One went back to his old ways and old trade and went fishing. The other, went and hung himself.
Jesus came to the shoreline after his resurrection and spoke to Peter and the others as they fished. He told them to throw the nets on the other side, which they did and caught a boat load of fish. They recognized it was Jesus.
Jesus spoke with Peter, Peter, and asked him three times, do you really love me. In many ways, this is a really bizarre question to ask someone who betrayed you. Look buster, you betrayed me three times in a row – do you really love me.
Each time Peter replied, yes, I do love you. And each time, Jesus told him to go and feed his sheep. To look after his flock. To go and care for his people.
I believe that if Judas hadn’t have hung himself, Jesus would have also reconciled Judas back to himself. Such is the power of his dealing and forgiveness of sin. BUT Judas allowed guilt and shame to destroy him from any chance of such reconciliation.
While the last supper points to the crucifixion, forgiveness, and the resurrection. This story of reconciliation of restoration of ministry and purpose of Peter is one that puts wheels on the story of forgiveness and calling in ministry. It shows the reality of the centrality of the Gospel message – in that Jesus came, lived, died and rose to life again, to forgive-and restore sinners.