Failure is a perspective. We all fail, and that is the truth. What is important is what we do when we fail. Do we accept the failure as final? Do we incorporate the failure as part of who we are and let it change us? I am not writing a self-help blog today because I believe that serious moral failures can only be overcome with God’s help. With God’s help however, we can overcome failures that would have otherwise crushed the life out of us and robbed us of our purpose for living. God extends grace to those in failure and lifts them up if they accept his grace.
Maybe you have experienced failure in your marriage, and you can’t get passed it. Maybe you have failed as a parent, and you live with that regret. Maybe you have failed in your profession, and you bear the consequences. God’s grace extends to you another opportunity to do the right thing. Let’s look at Peter’s failure.
Peter was proud, so proud in fact that he boasted to the Lord that he would die for the Lord if necessary. Even if everyone else ran away, he would not, “Even if all fall away, I will not.” The Lord gave Peter a sober rebuke—one which he did not comprehend at the time, “today — yes, tonight — before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times “ (Mark 14:29-30).
Peter did the unthinkable; he denied the Lord, not just once, but three times. What emotions must have been swirling in Peter’s mind that day. After the third denial, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’" Peter’s response is that “he went outside and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62). Peter, from that moment, carried the burden of failure with him.
When the women discovered the empty tomb, they were met by an angel who delivered a message from Jesus. He calmed them down and assured them that Jesus was alive, but that he wasn’t there. He told them, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you’” (Mark 16:6-7).
The Lord adds Peter’s name because they may have not included him because Peter didn’t want to hear from anybody. Others may have written Peter off, but Jesus didn’t, “Tell his disciples and Peter.”
Later, Peter and some of the disciples go fishing in Galilee, and as their lives are empty, so are their nets. Jesus appears on the shore telling them to cast their nets on the right side. They do, and the catch is enormous—153 large fish. Peter, upon recognizing that it is Jesus, dives into the water and hurries to see Jesus. Jesus has prepared hot bread and grilled fish for these hungry men. However, after breakfast Jesus draws Peter into an important conversation about his failure. He does it in such way as to help Peter deal with his own sense of worthlessness.
Jesus knew that this issue needed to be talked out, so he initiated the talk and engaged Peter. He was dealing with Peter’s failure, and now he was extending grace. He did not brush it off, but carefully asked Peter did he love him, and he asked this three times, exactly the number of Peter’s denial (John 21:1-19).
Before Peter had bragged that he would always follow Jesus even to death, but he had learned that his pride was an obstacle. He was trusting in self and not in God. Now he simply says, “Lord, I love you.” Jesus says that is enough, “Feed my sheep.” If you say, “I love you Lord,” that is enough. Jesus’ words to Peter were “Follow me!” Peter did that, all the way to death.