Forgiving the Unforgivable

Scripture Reading — John 21:15-19

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked . . . [a] third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things. . . .” — John 21:17

In our reading today, Jesus is calling Peter back into service, showing that he has forgiven Peter for his hasty denials when Jesus was arrested. That night, Peter had denied three times that he even knew Jesus, even though he was one of Jesus’ closest disciples (Luke 22:54-62).

We might think that Peter’s sin was unforgivable, but Jesus turned the other cheek and not only forgave Peter but also restored him as a leader. We witness Jesus inviting Peter not once, not twice, but three times to reaffirm his love and allegiance. Then Jesus commissions Peter to follow him faithfully, all the way to death if necessary. And history shows that is what Peter did.

In a time of “cancel culture,” Peter’s role would likely have ended and his name might have been erased from Scripture. But we read of his many actions as a disciple of Christ, both good and bad, and of his leadership in the church (see Matthew–Acts and 1-2 Peter). His mistakes and sins did not define him, but instead God used those experiences to shape Peter as a leader.

Our Christian leaders and friends can let us down and dis­appoint us too. Forgiveness may seem undeserved. Yet none of us is beyond the reach of God’s grace for wretches like me or you.

Prayer

“Lord, you know all things, you know that [we] love you,” and yet we disobey and disappoint you daily. Forgive us our sins, and help us to extend grace to others who have fallen. For Jesus’ sake, Amen. (BMB)