Mark 14:66 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came by. 67 When she saw Peter warming himself, she stared at him and said, “You also were with Jesus, the man from Nazareth.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I do not know or understand what you are talking about.” And he went out into the forecourt. Then the cock crowed. 69 And the servant-girl, on seeing him, began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. Then after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to curse, and he swore an oath, “I do not know this man you are talking about.” 72 At that moment the cock crowed for the second time. Then Peter remembered that Jesus had said to him, “Before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Peter had just told Jesus he would stand by him, no matter what. This passage reveals the opposite. Not only did Peter abandon Jesus in his hour of need, he denied knowing Jesus altogether. Remembering how Jesus had predicted this, Peter “broke down and wept”. One can only imagine his guilt and shame in failing Jesus – and himself – so miserably.
Unless you’ve been completely ignoring the news, you’ve heard about the awful shooting last week at a Uvalde, Texas elementary school in which 19 children and 2 teachers were killed by a local teenager. You’ve also likely heard that the on-scene police commander waited almost an hour before allowing law enforcement personnel to break in and take down the shooter.
Can you imagine what it’s like to be that guy today?
I’ve never done what Peter did in our passage, or what the police chief did in Uvalde, but I have definitely let myself and others down in my lifetime. I’m betting you have too. Why? Because personal growth and failure are often two halves of the same coin. This was certainly true of Peter. His denial of Jesus wasn’t the end of his story, not by a long shot. Peter would ultimately become the leader of all the apostles and key founding leader of the early church.
Today marks for me the one-month mark of my three-month sabbatical. In this time I’ve completely stepped away from leadership of Rejoice Lutheran Church, entrusting leadership to other staff and volunteer leaders. I’ve learned from painful experience how important it is for a church to be able to function well without me. Some years ago I planted a church that did really well – until I left. A few years later things fell apart. In hindsight I see there were things I could have done differently which may have led to a different outcome. It perhaps goes without saying that I do not want a repeat when I ultimately move on from Rejoice (some years from now).
What about you? Where are you learning from the mistakes of your past? No one likes to fail, but failure doesn’t have to be the last word. It can be a building block to a better future – and a better you. Jesus is all about picking us up when we fail and moving us forward for his glory. Lord let it be so. Amen.