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Did you read the devotion from Thursday of Passion Week? In it, I wrote about Peter and his denial of Jesus on the night of His arrest.
Well, this devotion is a follow up to what happened with Peter after he denied knowing Jesus.
My two favorite interactions involving Jesus happen after His resurrection. Both just take my breath away! The first is from yesterday’s devotion between Mary Magdaline and Jesus. The second one has been a favorite of mine for years and is what I’d like to tell you a little about today.
It is a remarkable story about Peter and Jesus that gives us so much insight into Jesus’ selfless and restorative love.
But before we get to the Scripture for this devotion, I want to paint a story for you. I’d like to walk you through Peter’s experience during Jesus’ last moments.
As I went over in Thursday’s devotion, Jesus predicted Peter would three times deny that he even knew Jesus. But Peter refused to believe that he would ever deny his Lord. Of course, Peter did deny Him, and when he did, only then did Peter remember that Jesus predicted this would happen.
As his Lord was being crucified, killed innocently, what was going on in Peter’s mind? How do you think Peter felt? What do you think Peter thought about?
If Peter was anything like us (which I think he was) feelings of guilt, remorse, depression, anxiety, shame probably plagued Peter.
I’m sure he had thoughts like, “Jesus, told me I would deny Him, and I did. He must hate me. And He died before I could even say I was sorry.”
I think the strongest feeling Peter probably felt was shame and depression – which is exactly what Satan wanted Peter to feel.
Jesus revealed that Satan had gone after Peter, wanting to “sift” him (Luke 22:31-32). In this instance, “sift” means to separate Peter from the mission God had for him; to remove Peter from his faith in Jesus. The intentions were pretty clear, Satan was trying to dismantle Jesus’ disciples. Not only was Peter attacked, but also Judas, who was willing and open to having Satan enter him. Of course, this ultimately led to Judas’ betrayal and suicide.
But as for Peter, well, something much different happened with Peter. Satan demanded to sift Peter, intending to plague him with shame, depression, and regret. Satan hoped to debilitate Peter so deeply that he would never be able to recover from abandoning Jesus in His last moments.
Satan was setting the stage for his plans to internally destroy Peter with guilt and shame, so much so that Peter would be rendered useless for the mission of spreading the Gospel and starting the Church.
But Jesus had plans for Peter too. And Jesus’ plans were bigger, better, and the winner of it all.
Peter did deny Jesus…but he was also restored. Do you know where that happens in Scripture?
You might think I’m talking about the passage in John 21, which is often referred to as “The Restoration of Peter.” But that was passage in John 21 is actually the result of the restoration – not when the restoration actually took place.
In reality, the restoration of Peter was happening even while Jesus was warning Peter that Satan was trying to sift him. Let me prove it to you – read Luke’s words in 22:31-32.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. 32 But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”
You all, there it is! It’s right there tucked into Scripture.
Peter was able to overcome Satan’s plan because of Jesus’ reverent prayer for Peter’s faith not to fail.
Jesus prayed for Peter!
I don’t know about you, but this kind of blows my mind.
So while Peter was undoubtedly wallowing self-pity, being internally tortured by Satan, God was carrying Peter through the temptation. As a result, Peter didn’t run to the noose like Judas. Instead, Peter was on another trajectory, one where Satan might have tried to sift him, but God was leading Peter to the other side instead.
Of course, we can also read in the Gospels about Peter at the graveside and in the upper room, but we do not see a resolution to his restoration until we get to the very end of the Gospel of John.
Please take your time and read this remarkable exchange between Jesus and Peter.
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?[e]”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
I can’t express how much this passage makes me have a lump in my throat.
Jesus reverses the denials with three affirmations of Peter’s love. As a result, Peter is restored, just like Jesus predicted in Luke 22:32b “So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Because of this, Peter was able to go forward to assemble and fortify the followers of Christ and become a major player in the spreading of the Good News.
But this wasn’t evil’s plan. Satan knew Peter was important, knew he was needed for the movement of the Gospe. That’s why Satan tried to impede and stop Peter in his tracks.
Satan tried to destroy Peter’s worth, identity, and even his love for Jesus.
But it didn’t work because Jesus’ prayers and interaction with Peter was the antidote to Satan’s poison – as it is for all of us.
The charge for you today, this Monday after Easter, is to accept the Good News: “while we were still sinners Christ Jesus died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Jesus didn’t die for us when we were already clean and restored. It was when we were a mess Jesus died for us. There is nothing that can separate us from the love and grace of God-nothing but ourselves. We can refuse to accept that God’s grace covers our flaws, to mistakenly believe that we should know better and never sin after we become Christians.
While thoughts like these feel right and honorable, I can assure you they are not, and they lead you further from God, not closer.
Grace is grace. It’s undeserved and unearned. There is nothing you can do to earn grace. Satan tried to bank on Peter’s feelings of unworthiness, of hopelessness, of shame. These are not feelings from God but from evil. Evil wants us to feel indebted, wants us to feel embarrassed and ashamed. It’s a clever trap that attempts to nullify in our lives Jesus’ work on the Cross and in the empty Grave.
We have two paths to choose – the path of Peter or the path of Judas.
But before we choose, we must always understand we are people who sin (even if we don’t want to). Both men sinned, both did things they wish they didn’t, but both had two different outcomes. Would Judas have been forgiven like Peter had he stuck around? I don’t have any doubt, because that’s who God is.
Judas sought to resolve his own problems…and we know where that got him.
Don’t be like Judas. Be like Peter.
I sincerely hope you have enjoyed the Passion Week devotions, and if you want to catch up on the series, click here to read devotions from the rest of the week.