We are in the Easter season, and it is easy for us to say “don’t do that” as we read the reactions and bad decisions of the disciples after Jesus is arrested. It is easy because we know how the story ends.
But, standing in the middle of everything, the eleven didn’t. They thought their beloved Teacher was the answer to everything. He had walked on water (Matthew 14:25) and then called Peter out with Him (Matthew 14:28-29). He had cured numerous people. He had brought several dead back to life, including His good friend Lazarus (John 11:43-44). They had watched Him perform miracles and change the world around Him. Then, He does something completely unbelievable – He allows Himself to be arrested by a large group of temple guards. He does not protest. He does not resist. He quietly goes with them, proclaiming God’s purposes are being fulfilled (Matthew 26:56a). And the disciples are stunned. They can only react one way – panic and run (Matthew 26:56b).
When Peter is asked three times that same night if he knew Jesus, he repeatedly denied any relationship (Matthew 26:59-74). Because if they took Jesus, whom Peter and his fellow disciples thought was untouchable, what hope was there for common fisherman and former tax collectors? Their lives were in danger, and they each responded out of fear and desperation.
But if any of them had realized what would happen over the next week, how would their reactions have been different?
What would Peter’s denials have become in light of the possibility of His resurrection? How would Peter have answered if he ever believed the truth of the resurrection Jesus told them about?
But Peter is much more relatable – and so are his fellow disciples – because he didn’t know what was coming. And they all reacted exactly as we would when they had a difficult decision to make in the middle of a crisis.
Decisions are so much easier to make when you have all the facts and a perspective beyond the moment. But we often have little information and limited perspective. Yet God trusts us to make decisions. Even though we see very few things clearly. Even though we don’t realize or even care about how much we will hurt people. Even though we cannot understand all the possible outcomes and consequences.
Yet God loves us enough to let us choose. We get to decide if we will help or harm. We get to decide if we will lead or follow. We get to decide if we will trust or turn away. We get to decide if our words will be good or bad, life giving or life destroying.
Because if we didn’t get to decide, how would we understand the power of grace to completely change a life?
Peter decided to deny Jesus three times when confronted. And Jesus decided to redeem these decisions at the Sea of Galilee by giving him the same opportunity to declare his love (John 21:15-19). And Peter was able to redeem his decision and undo his previous denials by saying three times “You know that I love You” (John 21:15-17). In that moment, Peter understood finally and fully the power of grace and the freedom of forgiveness for bad decisions. Because after Peter was able to express his love and loyalty, Jesus commissioned him to take that love and go share it by helping people know God.
How do I know Peter got it? Because Pentecost comes, and Peter stands up and preaches to the over 3000 people there about his beloved risen Savior. He calls the crowd to repentance and baptized “about three thousand” (Acts 2:41) to celebrate their life-changing decision.
Yes, Peter made a tragic decision. But Jesus didn’t leave him to wallow in regret and pity. Jesus picked him up and gave him a great purpose. And because Peter knew regret, he could better preach Christ and the power of His love.
So too will he do for us. He doesn’t want us to waste our time wallowing in regret over the wrong things we’ve done. He wants us to come to His waiting open arms and accept grace. Because every decision can be rewritten to showcase His goodness, glory, and grace. Just like Peter.
What decisions will you give Him today?
Marie Fremin, 3/25/18