We are all created with a desire to be known by people. To be appreciated. To be seen. To have our lives matter.
But how often, in our quest to be known, do we forget that God wants to be known by us? That God wants us to know His unconditional love. That God wants us to experience His abounding forgiveness. That God wants us to embrace His unending grace.
God wants to have a meaningful relationship with us, to be connected with us on every level. To help us. To encourage us. To direct us.
And He does not care if where we have been or what we have done. He still wants to be connected with us and help us live our lives to the full. He wants to draw us toward His best.
Just look at Peter. The outspoken and erratic disciple who one minute confessed Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 16:16) and then a few breaths later chastised Jesus for talking about His upcoming death (Matthew 16:22). He swore that he would never deny Jesus, even if things got to a breaking point (Matthew 26:33). Yet that same night he was confronted three times by three people about his relationship with Jesus – and each time, he quickly denied any connection to the Man on trial inside. “I do not know the Man!” (Matthew 26:70,72,74) is the only thing he could say in the middle of extreme confusion and chaos.
And Jesus could have left him to wallow in the self-pity, despair, and regret of his fear driven denials – making the rest of his days spiritually void. But Jesus still knew Peter and wanted to be known by Peter. He wanted to show Peter that yes, Peter could still know Him, love Him, and serve Him. Peter could still fulfill his purpose God had planned for him (Matthew 16:18).
So as Jesus stepped back into the disciples’ lives for the third time after His resurrection, Peter is overjoyed to see Him and be with Him (John 21:7). Peter deeply regrets his actions in the high priest’s courtyard, and Jesus knows this. And because He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), He wants to reset Peter’s thoughts, reassure Peter’s depressed heart, and rewrite Peter’s story. Because Peter needed to know that Jesus still loved him, despite all he had done – so Peter could go out and help others know that Jesus loved them in the same way.
So Jesus draws Peter out of his discouragement and into repentance, releasing him from the burdens of his denials. And as many times as Peter publicly denied Him, He has Peter publicly declare his love and commitment – “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” (John 21:15-17). Then choose to know Me, which means “Follow Me” (John 21:19) wherever I take you.
And thus Jesus, who knew Peter all along, helped Peter know the true heart of his Savior. The One who knows us and still loves us. The One who redeems our bad choices with another opportunity. The One who applies grace as often as we need it. The One who forgives fully and finally.
And oh, how being known – and forgiven – changed Peter. That day, as Jesus rewrote his story, I think he embraced the full power of God’s love. Because he became emboldened to go out and start making an impact in the world around him. It was Peter who stood up at Pentecost and preached “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) to the people gathered there. It was Peter who healed the lame man at the temple gate (Acts 3:6-7) and then preached to the astonished people who quickly gathered (Acts 3:19). It was Peter who boldly confronted the religious leaders about their role in crucifying an innocent Man (Acts 4:10) and refused to stop preaching about his Savior (Acts 4:20). And it was Peter who was eventually proudly crucified for his outrageous faith.
All because Jesus knew him – and loved him through all the mistakes, the messes, and the missteps.
And the great news today is that God knows you. Yes, you. Sitting there reading this. No matter what you have done, where you have been, or how often you have chosen not to know Him, He still knows you. And He loves you, completely. He is waiting for you to be like Peter and turn to know Him. It will be the beginning of a whole new life – and purpose – for you.
Marie Fremin. 10/1/18 and 10/7/18