Life: Hope renewed

• The Bible Studies for Life lesson for May 18 focuses on John 18:15-18, 25-27; 21:15-19.

His story was gut-wrenching. Abandoned by his mother. Shuffled from home to home. Looking for love and yet never knowing love. Making bad choices that became secret sin. Asking Christ into his life but doubting his salvation. Living a vicious cycle of sin, repentance and trying again. When he finally hit rock bottom, he sought help from the church only to be rejected and told to leave. His question is haunting, “Is there hope for those who fail?”

The resounding answer is “Yes.” In Christ, there is hope for those who fail. Every person who follows Jesus knows what the Apostle Paul meant in Romans 7:19, 24-25: “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. ... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Good intentions gone bad

Peter’s story is one of hope for those who fail. He was one of the first men Jesus called to follow him (Mark 1:16-18). There was no hesitation in Peter’s response to follow Jesus. He dropped his nets immediately and went with this itinerant rabbi.

For three years, Peter lived with Jesus. He not only was privileged to hear the sermons and see the miracles but also to have private debriefing times that provided more explanation and teaching. He had insight into this man most did not. His love ran deep.

But now, life was spinning out of control. Jesus talked about his death. It was happening. Peter declared his firm commitment to Christ. “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Jesus knew what was going to happen. “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (John 13:38).

Jesus’ words were lived out a few hours later. He had been arrested and taken to the house of the high priest. Peter and probably John followed. They found themselves in the courtyard of the high priest when the questions began to be asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” (John 18:17). Peter’s words were firm and short, “I am not.” Twice more Peter was asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples and the answer remained the same, “I am not.” The rooster crowed. Peter’s heart was broken.

Hope does not die

The amazing thing about hope is that it doesn’t die when we fail in following Jesus. Peter would discover that truth on the seashore in Galilee.

The story moves from betrayal in the courtyard to hope renewed on the shore. Jesus broke the power of sin and death on the cross. He was resurrected to new life and appeared to those same disciples who deserted him in the garden. His instruction to them was to return to Galilee, which they did.

On the seashore, Jesus looked into the face and heart of one he loved. Three times he asked Peter the question, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17). With tenderness, do you hear the Savior asking you the same question: “Above all others, do you love me? Do you love me on purpose and with devotion? Do you love me as you would the Father?”

John writes Peter was hurt and saddened Jesus asked him three times if Peter loved him. Perhaps it was necessary because of Peter’s three-fold betrayal. Peter affirmed his love for Jesus three times, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15-17).

Hope renewed

Hope was renewed in Peter with each of Jesus’ three responses: “Feed my lambs.” “Take care of my sheep.” “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). Jesus would not give this important work to someone he didn’t have confidence and trust in.

Peter also heard the same invitation issued to him on the seashore three years before, “Follow me” (John 21:19). What sweet words those must have been. To be loved unconditionally and restored by the very one you betrayed almost is beyond description.

Who are you in this story? The one who follows Jesus but struggles with failure? Know there is hope for you. Jesus knows your heart. He offers forgiveness and grace. Receive what he is offering.

Perhaps you are the one who has been betrayed. Would you be Jesus today to the one who has hurt and disappointed you? There is such power in forgiveness. Not only does it set you free, but also it becomes hope renewed for the one who failed.

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