And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
There are times when we will fail Christ, as unprofitable servants wholly incapable of obedience–for if Peter, an apostle of the faith handpicked by God, could deny that he was a follower of Christ–what reason do we have to believe that we can honor our own commitment to God?
Yet, we know that Peter was martyred for Christ, as we have the Lord’s testimony concerning these things:
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
After we have failed Christ, we may yet serve Him, as God is wholly able to conform even the most abject sinner to the pattern established by the sinless life, atoning death, and bodily resurrection of His Son.
Moreover, we see that He does this with foreknowledge:
For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
Here are two mutually inclusive truths:
God’s righteousness and eternal purpose cannot be denied.
Man has free will [God does not author sin–James 1:13-14].
We can find an example of both of these truths at work in the life of the apostle Peter.
Upon Peter’s denial of Christ, he returns to his former vocation, as a fisherman. Moreover, he convinces other disciples to join him [by his example, if nothing else].
Recall, this is the disciple who was the first to receive the revelation that Jesus was the Son of God:
Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Satan cannot prevail against the revelation and work of God in our lives.
Yet, if we will not continue with Christ, we have no choice but to return to the world, for there are but two paths–the broad way of the world that leads to death–and the narrow path that leads to life in Christ (Matthew 7:13-14).
After Peter’s denial, the resurrected Christ finds Peter fishing on the Sea of Galilee with other apostles (John 21).
Though he was called to be a fisher of men, Peter’s sin has led him back into the world.
Though he had been given great authority to bind and loose [act as Christ’s ambassador], Peter still could not eat the meat of the kingdom and take up the will of the Father. We see an example of this earlier in Peter’s life, when he tries to encourage Jesus to save Himself from the work of the cross:
Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
It is only after we fail Christ utterly, after having known Him and the way of truth, that we are able to eat the meat of the kingdom and take up its most difficult labors, truly confessing that “every bitter thing is sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).
Here are two more mutually inclusive truths:
We will fail God.
Christ will never forsake us (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).
We see these two truths at work in Peter’s life on a Galilean beach:
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
Our failures are intended to bring us to a place of humility and continual reliance upon Christ, so that the work of the cross can bear fruit in our lives (James 1:13-14):
At the end of every occasion of sin [or struggle against a habitual sin] lies a question that we all must answer, a question posed by God to man: “Lovest thou me?”
And with it, an equal charge to bear fruits worthy of repentance: “Feed my sheep.”
And finally, a personal admonition and encouragement: “Follow me.”
And here is the mystery of God at work in the life of man–that providence and free will are not mutually exclusive terms–and the same power the kept Peter, also keeps us, even as Satan also desires to sift us like wheat:
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
Three things seem clear:
We are created with foreknowledge, especially formed by God to accomplish the purpose He has in us (Jeremiah 1:1 Peter 1:1-2).
The Lord knows we will fail Him.
And yet, He has prayed for us, that our faith would fail not.