You know that feeling of “I blew it”, often manifested as a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? When you wish the clock could turn backwards and you could have a second chance? It’s the worst. As a parent, I often feel it when I lose my cool and completely flip out on my kids. Or when I let hurtful words roll off my tongue towards people I love.
I’ve been thinking about that emotion a lot this week. Regret. A longing to go back and do something differently, or not do it at all. The dictionary defines it as feeling sadness, repentance, or disappointment over something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity.
Last week I spent time reading the different Gospel accounts of Jesus’ journey to the cross, and I found myself being drawn to Peter more than ever. He was one of the very first disciples of Jesus, and one of the four closest to Him. In Matthew 4:20 when Jesus says to Peter “come, follow me” we see him leave his fishing nets “at once” and follow. There is no hesitation. He even becomes an informal leader of sorts among the other disciples. Peter loved Jesus with his whole heart.
He was bold, and often declared his love and loyalty for Jesus in extravagant ways. In Matthew 14 as Jesus walks on water to go out and meet His disciples in the boat, Peter boldly cries out “Lord, if it’s you…tell me to come to you on the water.” Jesus replies with one word: “Come.” Peter stepped out of that boat, and began to walk on water towards his friend and his Lord. WALKED ON WATER. And in the moment when his fear brought a sinking feeling to his stomach and a literal sinking of his feet, he called “Lord, save me!” to the One that he knew could do it.
In Matthew 16, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is, and Peter is the first to declare that Jesus is the true Messiah. Jesus’ response: “on this rock (Peter) I will build my church.” This is what makes it so surprising when just a few chapters later, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny him.
In chapter 26, during Jesus’ final meal with His disciples, He tells them that on that very night, they will all fall away from Him. Bold Peter replies “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Jesus answers “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Peter again declares “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”
It’s this statement that makes the final verses of that chapter so painful to read. When Jesus is arrested, Peter follows into the courtyard of the high priest. Three times Peter is asked if he is with Jesus. Three times Peter says “I don’t know the man!”. And as he hears the rooster crow after the third denial, verse 75 says “he went outside and wept bitterly.”
Wept bitterly. Tears of regret streaming down his face. Years of affection for this man named Jesus, all denied out of fear. I can only imagine how he felt. Perhaps like he had broken their relationship. That it could never be restored. All of his boldness and over the top declarations of love seemed nullified in three brief exchanges.
As I read the Gospel accounts of the women visiting the empty tomb, it was Luke 24:12 that leapt off the page at me this year. Mary and the others left the tomb and went to tell the disciples what they had found; that Jesus was not there, that He had risen! The scripture says that they did not believe the women because it didn’t make sense. Oh, but Peter.
“Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb.”
RAN. Peter ran, towards the hope he had for a second chance. Peter entered the empty tomb, and saw the grave clothes left behind. What must he have felt in that moment? The hope of restoration, perhaps. Of resurrection. And not just of his Savior, but of their relationship as well. I can’t help but think that as much as Peter grieved the death of the Messiah, he likely grieved most for what he had done to their relationship in his moments of denial.
In John 21, Jesus appears to His disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Peter and a few other disciples are out fishing when Jesus calls from the shore. John says to Peter “It is the Lord!” and when Peter heard him say these words, “he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water.” JUMPED. Peter jumped, to swim towards the hope he had for a second chance.
What he finds on the shore is Jesus, waiting next to a fire. Jesus doesn’t scold him, or even begin to preach. He says “Come and have breakfast.” Then, as they finish the meal, Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?”. He replies “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus then asks the same question again and again, gently leading Peter into an opportunity to declare his love the same number of times that he once denied Him.
In this beautiful exchange on the beach, Peter experienced his own resurrection as he received a second, and third, and fourth chance to restore relationship with his friend and Savior. And what Jesus did for Peter, He does for us. He is our forever Second Chance, continually restoring and resurrecting our relationship with Him.
So I want to live like Peter. Bold, and deeply in love with Jesus. And when I blow it, and my heart is full of regret and distance, I want to be found running, and jumping and walking on water to get back to Him.