Hidden Nuggets Series #64 – “For with the Lord there is mercy; and with Him is abundant redemption.” – Psalm 130:7
Recently I’ve been talking about some topics that are all interconnected: dealing with failure, making mistakes and asking for help. I’ve been in a reflective mood as 2014 comes to a close. Some great things happened this past year but like the rest of you there are some things that I wish had happened differently.
In my younger days I used to think that every mistake was the end of the world – that there could be no recovery from big time failures. I’m realizing more and more the folly of that line of thinking. There is always room for redemption no matter how hard we might fall.
Not that redemption would come easy mind you. It could be the toughest of challenges to redeem yourself in the eyes of others who have seen you fail. Trust, confidence in and respect for would all have to be earned again.
The possibility of redemption remains a possibility though. Those who understand that can move on. Those who don’t, sink only deeper into an emotional despair. This can be clearly seen in the lives of two of Jesus’ followers who both made mistakes and took completely different routes in dealing with them.
A Story of Redemption
Those familiar with the ministry of Jesus know that he chose 12 men to be his core disciples. Of these, 3 stood out to be the closest of Jesus’ companions – Peter, James and John. There was an intimacy shared with these three over the years of Jesus’ ministry that we don’t find with the other nine.
So it must have come as a surprise to Peter when on the eve of Jesus’ death Jesus said that Peter would deny that he even knew Jesus three times. Peter violently protested, saying that he would rather die with Jesus than deny that he knew him. Yet as Jesus was arrested and faced his trial later that night, the prediction came true.
On three separate occasions when accused and questioned by various people of being a sympathizer and follower of Jesus, Peter denied having even known the man. At one point he began to curse at those who questioned his loyalty to Jesus. When the final denial came from his lips he remembered the words of Jesus and realized he had turned his back on his closest friend. Moments later, the Bible tells us that Peter went out away from the crowds and wept bitterly.
Yet a miracle occurred and a few days after his death Jesus was resurrected from the dead. So Peter would get the chance to face his master and friend again. Surely he would be confronted by an angry Jesus, face the humiliation of his denial and have to answer for his words.
What we see though is a very different reaction from Jesus. In a conversation they have one morning on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus forgives Peter. Not only does he forgive Peter he challenges him to be a leader going forward for the other disciples.
Bet Peter didn’t see that coming.
Peter didn’t disappoint. In the years that followed, he became a bold, charismatic leader who God used to launch the early church.
A Story of Non-Redemption
The other disciple narrative that surrounds Jesus’ death is that of Judas. Like Peter he had been with Jesus for three years of ministry. However, from certain clues we have from the Bible it seems that Judas never bought into or fully understood the ministry goals of Jesus. In fact, in one place we read about him being a thief in that he took money from the disciple’s money purse.
So with his disillusionment regarding the ministry of Jesus, it really came as no surprise that Judas decided to turn on Jesus. He copped a deal with the religious leaders of the time (who also opposed Jesus) to identify and hand Jesus over to them at a time of their choosing. For this, he was paid 30 pieces of silver.
Yet once Judas had completed his betrayal on that fateful night, he had a change of heart. The Bible says this about Judas’ reaction to the fact that Jesus was going to be sentenced to death:
“Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’ Then he [Judas] threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed…” – Matthew 27:3-5
If Judas had only known his actions could have been forgiven. If he could have seen the tenderness by which Jesus restored Peter. If he could have realized mistakes happen but that life doesn’t have to end with those mistakes. Perhaps, if he could have known these things to be true, then we would not have these sad words written at the end of Matthew 27:5:
“…and went out and hanged himself.”
What Route Will You Take?
You and I will stub our toe with the best of them. I’m going to fail. So will you. The question we must ask ourselves is “What route will we take post-failure?”
The denial and betrayal episodes of Peter and Judas respectively are harsh failures. Yet they took vastly different paths in dealing with the emotion of their miscue. One fought through it and that resulted in a prosperous and fulfilling future. The other succumbed to it and missed living entirely.
Hold onto the concept that redemption can be achieved. Our failures aren’t the end of the world. We can be restored no matter what we’ve done.
How have you recovered from a failure? Who supported you through the dark times?
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