Welcome Valley Media                                                                                                                                                                      

Grown-Up Bible Stories

Reclaiming a Failure

Shortly after Jesus Christ rose from the dead, He met with his eleven closest followers on the shore of the lake we call the Sea of Galilee. The disciples had been out fishing, and Jesus called them to land to partake in a breakfast of roasted fish. Among those disciples was one man who had reason to be unsure of his standing with Jesus.

In the last tragic hours prior to Jesus’ execution, Simon Peter had lost his nerve and denied that he even knew Jesus Christ. Now, Jesus had confounded all expectations and risen from the dead. It was time to realize that the kingdom they’d all expected Him to establish wasn’t just Middle Eastern politics, but Heaven itself. It was also time to remember that Jesus had warned all who would deny Him that He would deny them in the end. When Jesus showed up on the shore, Peter leaped into the water and swam ahead of the boat, yet it is easy to imagine that his eagerness may well have been tempered by fear. He’d started so big and fallen so low.

Yet, before the death and resurrection of Jesus, Peter had been one of the most earnest followers Jesus led. He’d been very committed. As a follower of God’s special representative to earth, he had no other choice. He’d found in this Prophet’s teachings the keys to Heaven, and he wasn’t going to let them go, at least not without a fight.

Peter had prepared. He knew that Jesus’ political enemies wanted to murder Him. He had to have realized that the murder would be so arranged as to give it the mantle of justice. But Peter knew better. He also knew that more was at stake than just a small-town prophet. Jesus was the Messiah. That meant that He was destined to rule as King, first over Israel, but ultimately over the world. As a follower of this Messiah, Peter had an obligation to do his part to support Him. He started carrying a sword. In old Palestine, carrying a sword was roughly the equivalent of carrying a handgun today. It definitely gave a man “an edge” if he needed to defend himself.

Yes, Jesus had been predicting His own death at the hands of His enemies. He’d even suggested that He would rise from the dead shortly afterwards. But such talk was beyond Peter’s comprehension. It didn’t fit his traditions. It didn’t make sense. He didn’t understand it. He forgot about it.

Then, the fateful night was upon them. Never able to keep up with the spiritual power of his Leader, Peter had slept while Jesus prayed the prayers of a man facing disaster. The corrupt political-religious authorities showed up with what amounted to a small army. Their intent was to arrest Jesus. Peter grabbed his sword and launched a one-man attack. Brave? Virtually suicidal--unless, of course, Jesus released the supernatural power that had made Him famous. Jesus did release some of His power, but only enough to heal the man Peter wounded. Jesus also instructed Peter to put away his weapon. Then, Peter’s Messiah submitted to arrest.

Fighting for a Heaven-sent king was one thing. Surrendering a holy man to evil hypocrites was quite another. That the Son of God should fall before these scoundrels was beyond the fisherman’s wildest imagination. With the rest of Jesus’ followers, Peter recognized that his world was falling apart. The disaster included a threat to his own welfare. He did the obvious and took off into the night like a soldier fleeing the frontlines.

Even in disgrace, Peter was a step ahead of most of his comrades. They went into hiding. Only he and a young man named John came creeping back to find out what was happening. Actually, John was ahead of even Peter that night. With a loyalty braver than it takes to charge in a wild attack, he calmly went to the official residence where Jesus was being arraigned. Known to the servants there, he was allowed admission, the one follower of Jesus Christ willing to show up in what was proving a very hostile environment.

Well, not quite the only one. Peter, not familiar with the staff, also slipped in, helped by John’s friendship with the insiders. Only, Peter was no longer waving his sword. He was a nobody, a nameless face in the crowd at an abusive legal proceeding. In light of the recent disaster, it was best to keep it that way. We have no record if Peter felt guilty about hiding his identity. It had only been a few hours since he’d promised Jesus that he would be loyal to Him to the point of death. Jesus hadn’t trusted his fervor. He’d simply warned Peter that he would deny that he even knew Him that night. This of course had been unthinkable, and Peter had staunchly insisted that he would die for Jesus rather than conceal their relationship. Now, he was on the edges of just that, hanging out more or less incognito while the One he’d been ready to die for went through a bogus hearing.

But it wasn’t quite that easy. Some of the group of working people in the mansion recognized him. Maybe not quite like they recognized John, but the questions started coming. “You’re one of them aren’t you?” A servant girl asked.

Faced with risking his own neck Peter lied. “I am not.” [Quotations are not necessarily exact unless accompanied by a Scripture reference.]

Another serving girl thought she recognized him as a follower of Jesus.

I am not.”

One of the relatives of the guy Peter had wounded pressed the question. “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” The others added to the evidence. Jesus was from the region called Galilee. Peter had a Galilean accent.

Peter started swearing. “I don’t know the man.”

But morning was coming. The rooster crowed, and Peter got stopped in his tracks. Jesus had predicted that he would lie about their relationship. But there was more to it than that. The prediction had called for three such denials and that they would happen before the rooster crowed that morning.

Like the proverbial ton of bricks, the reality of it sunk in. The Son of God was about to be killed like a criminal. Now, this man who’d so proudly boasted of his loyalty, this man who’d even launched a solo attack against great odds on Jesus’ behalf had broken down in front of a bunch of servants. He’d denied that he even knew the Son of God. It was too much. Tough workingman or none, Peter gave way to tears.

The next few days were horrible. We commemorate one of them as “Black Friday” even to this day. Jesus was tortured to death and buried. His followers, including Peter, hid themselves in a locked room, dreading the approach of the authorities that had just killed their Leader. The stakes had been the highest in history, and they’d lost.

Of course, Jesus rose from the dead. Peter himself had seen the empty grave. Peter himself had seen Jesus alive and well. But Peter’s joy was tempered. Jesus had once said that He would deny those who denied Him. Peter’s exact thoughts haven’t been recorded, but it doesn’t take great imagination to recognize the predicament he was in. He’d given up too soon. Jesus had accomplished something even bigger than Peter’s patriotic dreams envisioned. An earthly empire paled next to an everlasting one. And, Peter stood as it were on the edge, looking into the very kingdom of Heaven, knowing that he’d denounced his citizenship with his own mouth.

But, unlike Judas, Peter was still there. Sorry? Doubtlessly. Less cocky? We can’t imagine otherwise. But he was still there with the surviving eleven of Jesus’ twelve closest followers. He was there that day when Jesus called their fishing boat ashore and gave them a breakfast of fresh fish. It was on that strange day when a bunch of simple men ate with the only person in all previous history to be permanently raised from the dead that Jesus and Peter finally talked it through.

Actually, Peter didn’t have much to say. Jesus asked him if he loved Him. Jesus asked using the strongest terms. In their language two levels of love were recognized. Jesus asked if Peter had the highest love for him. Peter admitted to only having a friend’s love. But Jesus still commissioned him to go out and feed His sheep, that is, to function as one of His ministers. The scenario repeated itself three times with some variation in wording, including Jesus’ finally coming to use the lesser word for love. But the commission remained.

That is the Peter we read about in the four biographies the Bible gives of Jesus Christ.

There is another Peter. He is the same man, but in a way he isn’t. He was filled with the Spirit of God after Jesus returned to Heaven. Peter, the man who’d falsely denied even having heard of Jesus, became one of the central leaders of the Christian church. A powerful, miracle-working spokesman, Peter stood up to the very authorities that he’d once feared so much. When they jailed him, angels released him. When they forbid him to speak about Jesus, he told them he had to obey God rather than man and went back out and declared to the multitudes that forgiveness of sins, peace with God, and eternal life were available as a free gift to those who would believe in Jesus Christ. He became the prominent spokesman for the Jewish branch of Christianity and the first to declare God’s salvation to the Gentiles. God moved and directed him to write two books in the Bible. In the end, Peter proved his once-tarnished loyalty by dying for Jesus Christ.

Peter is remembered as a great Christian hero, a man of faith, courage, and leadership. Yet, had you seen him weeping alone the night of his failure, you would never have expected it. Had you seen him embarrassedly admitting that his love for Jesus Christ had proved far less than what he’d bragged about, you’d have figured he was lucky to be forgiven at all. Had you known the shame and despair this man who’d dreamed big and failed hard felt, you’d have struggled with depression, and suspected that it was all over.

But that isn’t what happened. Peter the spectacular failure came to Jesus the crucified and risen Savior and found not only forgiveness but a whole new life.


Have you failed? Did you start out to do what was right, to be some sort of moral example and spiritual giant, only to find yourself guiltier than you’d dreamed possible? Did you try to live life on your own terms, and found out that you weren’t big enough to make your own terms? While others bask in the glory of success and spiritual victory do you find yourself wishing there was a hole you could disappear into? Have you dreamed big things for God only to find that the dreams had fled and that you were not a conquering hero, only a run-of-the-mill failure? 

If so, take heart. The same Jesus who not only forgave Peter, but also gave him a whole new life wants to do the same for you. Why not ask Him?

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:33-39)

This work is in the pubic domain and may be copied and distributed freely.


How to Have a Relationship with God

Home    Bible Studies    Easy English    Essays    Grown-Up Bible Stories   Multimedia    Stories from the Book Itself

About this Site    Copyright Release    Links    Contact: mail@welcomevalley.com