I stood waist-deep in the Jordan River, waiting for the man I was about to baptize. He made his way slowly into the current, stopped in front of me, and looked me in the eye. “Are you sure I can be baptized?”
“What do you mean, Don?” I asked him. He had tears in his eyes.
With a trembling voice, this man in his sixties confessed to me a terrible sin he committed many years ago. He waited for my answer.
I’ll never forget that moment.
Let me ask you. If you could pick one event in your life you could go back and do it over, which would it be? If you’re like me, it would be tough to choose just one. We’ve all done things that have left us in deep regret. We mourn them like a death.
And while we can’t change the past, we also can’t ignore it.
Nor do we need to.
Jesus predicted Peter would deny Him three times. Peter’s reaction? He denied that he would ever deny Christ. Rather, he claimed he would be willing to die with Him.
After his failure, Peter felt the weight of his sin and wept bitterly. How often temptation hides the words of Christ from us, only to bring them to mind immediately after we fail.
In the days between Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter’s mind wandered back through the years when Jesus gave instruction to His disciples. I’m sure Jesus’ words echoed in his ears: “But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).
Peter must have thought, That’s it. I’m out. There’s no forgiveness for one like me.
(The rooster atop Jerusalem’s the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu recalls Peter’s failure)
Early Sunday morning a small group of women went to Jesus’ tomb and found an angel who said: “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.”
Then the angel said these words:
But go, tell His disciples and Peter. —Mark 16:6
A personal note from God to Peter. How absolutely gracious!
- God knew Peter’s special need for hope. In fact, the resurrected Jesus even appeared to him privately to reaffirm Peter’s forgiveness (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).
- The last time Peter looked Jesus in the eye, Peter had failed. Now, he looked in the eyes of the resurrected Lord and saw forgiveness.
- Later on the shores of the Sea of Galilee at Tabgha, Jesus challenged Peter to start over with Him (John 21), as is to say: “God is not done with you, Peter.”
Imagine that moment. Grace. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. Peace.
Yes, You Failed—But God is Not Done with You
You may be reeling from a failure so bad it has consumed your life. What’s more, like Peter, it has shown that your years of so-called strength were never really strong. It’s just that your strength was never tested.
Jesus may not have revealed your failure beforehand like He did Peter’s. But don’t you think Jesus knows your failures as well—past as well as future?
Yes, you failed. But God is not done with you—or you wouldn’t be here.
Through Christ, you have a second chance.
That’s what Don was asking for.
(Photo by: צולם על ידי אפי ברק CC-BY-2.5, via Wikimedia Commons)
Up From the Jordan River
“Are you sure I can be baptized?” Don asked me as we stood in the Jordan River. He waited for my answer.
“Let me ask you a question. Do you believe Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again?”
“Yes, I do.”
Now even I was crying. I put my hand on his shoulder. “Then He has forgiven you, Don. Forgiven you of every sin you’ve committed—and of every sin you will commit.” With a look of relief and resignation, Don nodded—and I baptized him.
He left the Jordan River that day with a new understanding of God’s grace.
You can too. God is not done with you.
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