Sometimes I think, I’ve really done it this time. There’s no grace left for me now. I’ve worn out my welcome. Game over.
But just when I feel like I’ve fallen out of grace completely, I find that I’m actually tumbling into my Father’s loving arms of grace.
I remember Peter, who had some of the highest highs and lowest lows a disciple of Jesus could experience. No doubt he loved Jesus a ton. But even though he made what he had thought was an unthinkable, even impossible mistake, he found himself well within the reach of God’s arms of grace.
Peter’s Bold Claim
Peter is my favorite disciple because I can relate to Him. He was all-in kind of guy. Outspoken, resilient, loud, ambitious, impulsive, and confident. His journey with Jesus had faith-filled successes and devastating failures. Peter shifted from bold audacious faith to paralyzing fear in an instant while walking on the water with Jesus. But his intimacy with Jesus included rich experiences that only a few other disciples had.
So when Jesus warns Peter that he will deny ever knowing Him, Peter courageously protests, “Lord I am ready to go to prison with you, and to death!” (Matthew 26:31-35)
Peter presumptuously and tremendously overestimated his devotion—he believed such a thing was impossible, even unthinkable! Can you picture his stunned face when Jesus says that he will deny him not just once, but actually three times in one day? I can—I, too, have been so blinded by the sweet mountaintop experiences with Jesus and my growing faith that, seemingly without warning, I stumble into grievous sin.
Denial and Despair
We are told in Scripture that after Jesus was seized by the Roman guards Peter followed at a distance. He wanted to keep an eye on what would happen to Jesus, while simultaneously remaining physically safe and preserving his reputation. Not only did Peter deny not being a disciple of Jesus, he vehemently insisted that he didn’t even know Him.
After the third denial, the awful realization hit and he remembered what Jesus had said earlier. How could he fall so quickly into a sin that just hours ago was unimaginable? Just then, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Surely that silent look said more than words could ever express. It must have been a look of tender compassion, one that conveyed grace, because it changed his heart and spurred immediate repentance. He broke down and wept bitterly.
I can hardly imagine the depth of the despair he felt in that instant. He must have wondered if his sin was too permanent.
If he had gone too far.
If he would forever be disqualified from grace.
I often wonder what the three days after Jesus’s death were like for Peter. Did Satan taunt his soul with the same lies and condemnation he often does us as believers? Did Peter continuously grieve, with the scenes of his grand failure repeating over and over again in his mind?
Not Too Far Gone for Grace
Jesus said earlier that He had prayed for Peter and charged him to strengthen his brothers. It’s incredible to realize that Jesus knew how Peter would fail, yet already had a plan for redeeming the astronomical mistake. Jesus said when he turned back, not if.
Peter knew the enormity of his sin and the bitter grief of failure. But he also had experienced communion with Jesus, whom he knew was full of mercy. He had seen Jesus extend forgiveness to the worst of sinners and knew the requirement for such a restored relationship was a broken and repentant heart.
Though he failed tremendously, he believed with such passion and sincerity. After the resurrection the women who were at the tomb told the disciples what they had seen. All of them think it is ridiculous—except Peter.
“But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look.” Luke 12:11-12
Don’t you love it? Peter, the-all-or-nothing guy, couldn’t merely walk to the tomb. He ran! Three days earlier Peter ran from his Master; now he is running to his Master!
After seeing for himself the burial cloths, the empty tomb, and marveling at what had happened, Peter’s zeal and passion returned, and it was even greater than before.
The Rest of the Story
Peter, who wept so bitterly after denying Jesus, would never disown Him again. In fact, he, along with John, Paul, Mark, and other apostles, led the early church movement and preached on the Day of Pentecost. Even in the face of great danger, Peter preached Jesus boldly. Ultimately, Peter died for his faith, ironically, by crucifixion just like Jesus. Many believe he was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same way as Jesus.
The commitment of Peter after the resurrection was obviously drastically different then that of the man who once followed Jesus’ footsteps on earth. After experiencing the graceful forgiveness of Jesus despite such flagrant sin, Peter was forever changed. The profound truth is this: God loves us so much that He lets our falls become tumbles into His arms—the arms of grace! Our mistakes, failures, shortcomings, and regrets can all be redeemed. No one is ever beyond the reach of God’s arms of grace
You are never beyond the reach of God’s arms of grace.