Experiencing God after Failure

Meg Jenista

Read: John 21:15-19

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

There’s Peter, around the campfire with his cohorts with freshly caught and cooked fish in their bellies. But for Peter, the weight of failure is sitting heavy too. Jesus called him “the rock,” but could anyone be more unsteady than he had proved to be?

Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three times, Jesus made sure of Peter’s love. But perhaps Jesus was not, primarily, looking back at Peter’s failure. Jesus, who knows the end to all our stories, could have been looking forward, not backward.

Peter, who was quick to love with word, needed enough grounding to also love with actions and in truth. And the only foundation, the only sure and steady foundation to sustain a life of ministry, like Peter’s, was the love of God.

Just as the weight of his previous failure travelled with Peter into his encounter with the risen Christ, so Peter’s encounter with the risen Christ travelled with him through the remainder of his days—through suffering and imprisonment, accusations and disapproval within the churches, all the way to death. At the last, Peter’s heart and will align. Jesus knew the end of Peter’s story. Jesus knew that Peter’s failure would one day be eclipsed by strength and courage deeply rooted in God’s love.

—Meg Jenista

Risen Christ, we have failed you—in thought and word and deed. But we do love you and we long to be faithful. Fill us with strength to profess your name, even to the very end. Amen.