Have you ever been embarrassed by someone? Maybe it was when you were a teenager and you didn’t want to be seen in public with your parents. We have all had that person in our lives that we love, but just apprehensive about being seen in public with them. As we come to the end of the Gospel of Mark, we find that the disciples have a moment in which they too are embarrassed to be associated with someone. What makes this event so shocking is that it is none other than Jesus.
Following their last meal together Jesus takes the short journey to the Mount of Olives with His disciples. With the cross looming on the near horizon Jesus informs the disciples that they will all soon desert Him. Peter is incredulous. He blurts out that even if all of the other disciples run off scared, He will never leave his Master’s side. For dramatic effect he adds that he would even be willing to die for Jesus. Jesus informs his passionate follower that not only will fall away as well, but he will repeatedly deny Him three times in the coming hours.
As we read through the rest of Mark 14, we are not surprised to discover that Jesus was right, and Peter was wrong. The repeated denials of Jesus leave Peter broken and sobbing like a child. And Peter is not alone in his sadness. The other disciples joined him in his denial of Jesus as well.
But there is hope. Mark’s Gospel ends with Jesus rising from the dead, conquering death and sin. And then we find the opportunity for reconciliation for Peter over in John’s Gospel. Following a long night of unsuccessful fishing Jesus greets Peter and the disciples on the shore. After breakfast Jesus begins the difficult but necessary process of restoration. After repeatedly asking Peter if he loved Him, Jesus commands Peter to feed His sheep. Each of these repeated questions gave opportunity for healing and reconciliation for Peter’s repeated denials. But then Jesus gives Peter a new purpose. He is called to take care of the church.
These passages have much to teach us today. They caution us to be incredibly careful in our battle against temptation and sin. The moment we think we are incapable of denying Jesus and committing a certain sin is when we are probably in the most danger of doing that thing repeatedly. And so, we are reminded of the continual need to abide deeply with Jesus, constantly soaking up His Word on a daily basis.
But we also see that forgiveness and reconciliation is possible. We see that God is able to overcome our failures. As John would go on to write in 1 John 1, God can forgive us when we confess our sins and failures to Him.
Furthermore, we see that a new purpose and focus is available to those who are reconciled back to God. Peter was not allowed to focus on His past failures. Jesus immediately gives Him a new calling, to feed His sheep. Jesus promised Peter back at the beginning of Mark that He would make him a fisher of men. This command to feed His sheep echoes that initial calling. He will boldly proclaim the gospel and become a pillar on which the early church would be built. When we fail and are forgiven it is important to be like Paul in Philippians 3 who forgets what lies behind and presses on to what lies ahead. We must reset our focus on Jesus and His calling for us.
In this passage we see three overall stages. Where do you find yourself? Are you cavalier in your approach to sin and temptation? If so, guard your life and fill your heart with the truth of God’s word to keep you from straying from God. Have you messed up? Ask for forgiveness and trust love of God to restore you. Are you wallowing in the past of previous mistakes? Set your hope on the purpose and plan that God has for you today and begin to follow Him again.