We all miss the mark.
Whether it’s by a lot or a little makes no difference. The glory of God is a very high standard and there’s not one of us who hasn’t fallen short of it.
We disappoint others. We disappoint ourselves. We disappoint God.
Yet no failure must ever be final.
No sin must ever be fatal.
A man called Peter could tell us.
It would have been bad enough that evening for this disciple. But he typically was the one who spoke up, and that only made it worse. Jesus had just warned him: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31, KJV).
Your might expect Peter to have cautiously pondered that spiritual advisory, coming as it did from his Lord. But then he was, after all, Peter.
“Lord,” Peter insisted, “I am ready to go to prison with you, and even die with you.” [22:33, NLT].
All of us pledge enthusiastic loyalty at the outset – and we’re always sincere in the moment. Devotion comes easy until it’s put to the test. Courage means nothing until it’s called for. At the time he spoke those words, Peter meant them.
We’re always ready to march – before we actually have to; before we see the enemy staring us down.
What Jesus then told Peter – perhaps in the presence of the other disciples – stunned him to silence.
“Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” [22:34, NLT].
As the ominous evening wore on, Peter’s loyalty began to unravel and the courage he had so passionately professed evaporated into the night mist.
First, he couldn’t even stay awake through Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. While Jesus wept, Peter slept.
As his Lord – the One for whom Peter would be willing to die – was led away by Roman guards, “Peter followed at a distance.” [Luke 22:54, emphasis added].
And then came the expletive-laced denials.
Luke tells us something that the other gospel writers omit. After Peter insisted – for the third time – that he didn’t know who Jesus was, Luke records:
“At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter.”[22:61, NLT].
We don’t know how Luke was aware of this startling detail – except that Peter must have told him. Peter remembered that look. How could he ever forget those eyes, so sad yet so kind? Was it not a look of understanding and compassion? Surely, Jesus didn’t scowl at Peter. It could not have been a look of condemnation or anger. It was, perhaps, the brief look of a broken heart.
However Jesus looked at Peter in that instant, the impact was immediate.
“Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind” [vs.61, NLT].
“And Peter remembered the word of the Lord” [KJV].
It cut Peter’s conscience to the marrow.
Luke says that he “left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.”[vs. 62, NLT].
Peter disappears into his shame and disgrace and his incredible guilt. Yes, “Peter remembered.” That’s all he could do. He remembered the courage he had when it didn’t count. And the courage he lost when it did. He remembered how his lofty allegiance melted in a crucible of unimaginable disloyalty.
Most of all, Peter remembered the look. How could Jesus ever forgive him? How could Jesus ever look at Peter – again?
Luke tells us that the buzz following the resurrection was that “The Lord has really risen!”
How did they know?
“He has appeared to Peter” [Luke 24: 34, NLT]. Yes, Peter!
Mark says that the young man at Jesus’ empty tomb commanded the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body to “go, tell his disciples and Peter” that Jesus had risen. [Mark 16: 7].
“…and Peter…” Don’t forget Peter.
Peter, whose greatest days were still ahead. Peter, who would strengthen, encourage and lead the first Christian church. Peter, who would yet die for Christ. Yes, Peter, who was forgiven and still loved by the Savior he had denied knowing.
You will search in vain throughout scripture for a greater testament to the love and forgiveness of our Lord Jesus than those two simple words, “and Peter.”
They are full of meaning. In them is the glory and redemptive power of the Gospel. Here is the greatness of God’s heart. The resurrected Christ went out of his way to single Peter out – and to include him in the mighty breadth of his extraordinary grace.
For every one of us who has ever stumbled and fallen – who has ever been tortured by a painful regret and a guilty remembrance – he has done the same.
Jesus has reached out and included you and me by name.
He has forgiven us – and asked us to forgive ourselves.
It has been said that “we need to be loved the most when we deserve it the least. Only God can fulfill this need. Only God can provide a love so deep it saves from the depths.”
Peter could tell us that.