April 9, 2020 by Steven Lulich
“Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, You also were with Jesus the Galilean. But he denied it before them all, saying, I do not know what you mean.” Matthew 26:69, 70.
I was the first one in my college classroom that day. A classmate soon joined me. I didn’t know him well, but I think we must have engaged in a bit of small talk. Small talk sometimes ends abruptly (perhaps with a reference to the weather), other times it takes a somewhat philosophical turn. In this case, it was the latter – my classmate ended up saying something like, “I guess the meaning of life is just to try to be happy.” He didn’t sound absolutely convinced.
What an opening! I thought. A perfect opportunity to share the Gospel with this classmate of mine. But I was scared for some reason (really, for no reason), and all I managed in reply was a bit of a shrug, a mildly audible “Hm”, and a downward stare at my homework as if I was deep in thought about this “meaning of life”. In today’s world of memes, the one that might have applied most perfectly is probably “You had one job…”
I’m really thankful that God gave us the Apostle Peter. Years after his three-fold denial of Christ, he would pen these words to the churches in what is now Turkey: “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:14, 15). This, from the same man who first confidently asserted to Jesus that “though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Matt. 26:33), and then almost immediately denied Him, “I do not know what you mean” (Matt. 26:70), “I do not know the man” (Matt. 26:72, 74).
From the very moment that I shrugged, said “Hm”, and looked down away from my classmate, I have been ashamed of myself. And why not? I had, after all, in that moment been ashamed of the Gospel. Perhaps you have had a similar experience – an opportunity to inject the light of the Gospel into someone’s life, a moment to stand firm in the Gospel in the face of potentially harmful consequences, a time to fly to the throne of grace in prayer and supplication – and perhaps, like me, you missed that opportunity. “You had one job” and you failed. The “Good News” of the Gospel is that there is redemption in Jesus Christ our Lord. Even Peter denied Jesus three times, and the third time with a curse! And yet, after the Resurrection, Jesus offered Peter a three-fold redemption, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-19). Just so, God offers to redeem us and all of our failed moments, our missed opportunities.
Like Peter, you may have failed – once, twice, a hundred times! Like Peter, who “wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75), you may feel ashamed of yourself for having been ashamed of the Gospel. But “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, [let us] press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13, 14). And with hands and hearts clinging to God’s redemption, let us – like Peter – “always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks [us] for a reason for the hope that is in [us].”