Judas and Peter: two disciples of Jesus, two members of the last supper, two unique sets of characteristics, two failures. We would do well to assume a match to these two characters. As unwanted and heart-breaking as failure is, we cannot escape it—at least, that was the case of these two men.
The book of John tells blankly of each case: “Now Jesus was deeply troubled, and he exclaimed, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me!’ The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple Jesus loved was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot” (John 13:21-26, NLT). Then, Peter has his turn, Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me (V. 38).” We know failure is inevitable in the world today; however, failure doesn’t have to become a failed approach.
Although both Judas and Peter failed, both of them approached their guilt and sin differently.
For Judas, the guilt of failure was evidently far beyond his control. According to Matthew 27:3-5, Judas was so regretful for betraying Jesus that he hanged himself. Judas had the failed approach to solving the failure he had recently recognized.
However, Peter had a much different approach to overcoming his failure. In Matthew 26:75, it says how he “went away, weeping bitterly.” But his story continues in John 21 whenever Jesus has risen from the dead. Pay close attention to the way Peter dealt with his failure. Peter came to Jesus on the shore in midst of being in a boat fishing. John says, “Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore” (V. 7). Notice how Peter didn’t try to avoid Jesus because of his sin against the Lord; rather, he was bold and excited to come to Jesus. It wasn’t much longer until more occurred within this approach. Jesus confronted Peter at the end of John 21.
“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me (V. 15-19).”
Through this amazing part of Peter’s approach, we learn how Peter assured Jesus he loved him. We also get to see the amazing way that Jesus commanded and revealed his future will for Peter. Jesus also reminded Peter to follow him. What a marvelous way of discovering true grace!
So as you continue walking this thing called life, remember this simple truth. Just as Jesus had open arms of grace for Peter, so He will for you. Remember, failure doesn’t have to become a failed approach.