I first followed Christ believing, no– hoping– that I was destined for something greater than what my life was now. We were going to be revolutionaries. I was one of Messiah’s “Inner Circle.” It was exhilarating, the crowds, the miracles, and oh, the teaching; His words pierced our souls and set our hearts aflame. Life was filled with hope, the possibilities were limitless, we were going to change the World!
Jesus was different than any other man I had ever known. He trusted me; He believed in me. One time, Rabbi Jesus told everyone that He was going to build His church upon me. Somehow He could see things in me that I couldn’t even see in myself. My name was always Simon which means, “bruised reed”. Truth be told, it hasn’t been easy for me. I remember finishing my schooling and then asking a rabbi if I could become his disciple, only to be rejected. He said I wasn’t good enough and could never become like him. I know I studied harder than many of the others, but somehow I wasn’t good enough. My family had great hopes for me, but somehow I had failed. Once again,I had let them down.The look in my father’s eyes said it all: “Simon fails, again.” So I returned to what generations before me had done– fishing. It was honest,hard work and I despised it. I dreamed of more; of changing the World… and yet my academic failures meant I would mend nets, gut fish, and brave storms.
Jesus was different than any other rabbi. In fact, one day He reminded us, “You didn’t ch00se Me, but I chose you!” One sentence from His lips healed the wounds my soul had suffered years earlier, when the rabbis had rejected me as a disciple. He really knew me, and yet, somehow, chose me. I mentioned He changed my name, no longer “Bruised Reed”– Jesus called me Peter, which means “Rock.” Every time someone called forth my name, Peter, I was reminded of my destiny. I was going to be one of the main Leaders He would build His church upon. I was going to be somebody, do great exploits and be one of His closest confidants.
He often said things I didn’t fully comprehend. I loved His approval; in fact I craved it! So when He said things I didn’t understand, most of the time I would ponder it silently. Once in awhile though, I’d tell Him what I knew was true, and yet so often I was putting my “foot in my mouth.” I always seemed to say the wrong things at the wrong time. Suddenly, He would see my weakness and I would wonder if once again I might be rejected. So I would just try harder, work a little longer– I was going to be all that He said of me, even if it cost me all! While the other boys were afraid of the storm, I was the one who stepped out of the boat and walked on water. I was the first to know for certain that He was the Messiah. I was going to be Peter-ROCK!
Failure.It stings the human heart in a way no other wound could. I remember when my failures were front and center stage. It started in the Garden of Gethsemane when Soldiers and the servant of the High Priest came to arrest my LORD. I pulled out my sword and swung at a man. I meant to kill him, but only cut off the right ear of Malchus. Whoops, I had failed again. Jesus rebuked me and then in one moment fixed my mistake; He miraculously healed the ear. Even in my failure, He was a loving Father who covered my short comings. I remember at the sound of His voice; every soldier fell to the ground and yet Jesus allowed them to take Him captive. It was all so confusing, the ensuing chaos found me paralyzed with fear, feeling dazed and confused.
Later that night while trying to keep warm be the fire near the place where they took Him, I was so filled with fear, that a young servant girl who exposed my weakness. Just as Jesus prophesied earlier, I denied Christ, not once or twice, but three times. Anguish engulfed my soul. I was drowning in confusion and unbelief. The one Man who had believed in me, spoken words of life that resonated at my hearts deepest level– I had betrayed Him. I was no better than Judas! When it mattered, when it truly mattered, I had let Him down. He had hung on that cross because of me! I now knew it was true; I would always and forever be Simon: “Bruised Reed!”
I did the same thing Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden…retreated. Feeling overwhelmed and despondent, I returned to the one thing I had always known I could do, fishing. Like Adam and Eve, I didn’t run to God but ran from Him. While some men loved fishing, I despised it; but now in my pain, it felt like a “just sentence.” I resigned myself to life as a fisherman, the just consequences of my failures. After all, I had missed God’s best for my life, I had abandoned the Messiah, and let my brothers– the other ten– down. My pride had become my failure. I dreamed dreams that were meant for greater men than I. In my youthful zeal, I had ignored the warnings of Christ. Why hadn’t I listened? Why was I so hard-headed?
If I could only have a “do over”, I’d have done things differently. I would have risked looking foolish and asked Him all the questions that flooded my mind. I would have joined Him in prayer. He even told me that Satan wanted to sift me like wheat! How foolish I had squandered such precious time with the King of Kings! I had been so confident that Jesus was wrong. But He was never wrong; not once.
One morning we had been out fishing laboring and toiling with no fish, when suddenly a man shouted out to us, and said to adjust our nets. Immediately our nets were full. John said it was our LORD. I had imagined a thousand times for the opportunity to ask His forgiveness; I rehearsed it so many times in my mind. I grabbed my shirt and dove into the water swimming to the shore hoping against hope, that He might grant me a “Do Over.” This was the third time he appeared to us, and yet I could never seem to utter the words I had rehearsed so often. Three times He asked me the same question, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Three times I answered “Yes, LORD You know I love You.” Each time He asked me I felt grief, but His final words shifted everything. He said, “Feed my sheep.”
I now know what He was doing or, in fact, undoing. He wasn’t asking me because He was uncertain of my love, after all, I even reminded Him that He knows all. He was asking because He wanted me to declare to myself and all the court of heaven that though it might be weak and immature love, I ,in fact, loved Jesus. For each time I had denied and betrayed Him, I was now affirming all my allegiance to the God-Man Jesus. When Jesus said, “Feed my sheep,” He was declaring to both me and the “Accuser of the Brethren”, that my name Peter-ROCK- had been restored. That in spite of weakness, sin ,and short comings, He would fulfill all His plans and purposes in my life! All Jesus needed was the “Yes” from my lips. I can’t describe to you the feelings of joy and hope that flooded my soul. Jesus had given me a “Divine Do Over”! What I had believed and accounted as failure, the Trinity redeemed as shaping my character and gifting so, I could live out my calling and accomplish the good works He had planned for me.
Don’t draw back to fishing when the sting of failure bites you like it did me! Maybe what you see as failure the Father sees as shaping and molding! Run towards Him, with total abandon! Trust His leadership He knows you better than you know yourself. He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it!