By Nathan Washburn
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Greenbrier
We like restoration. We like it for movie characters, classic cars, and even kitchens. To have someone or something go down a path of bad judgment or rust or general neglect and then see redemption happen is among the most tangible joys. It brings a feeling of completeness, and we like that.
But it’s more than a feeling; we’re hardwired for it. Restoration brings hope that maybe all things can be made new again, and, according to the Bible, this is true. So then, we don’t just like restoration because it gives us a shallow feeling that everything is temporarily all right, we like it because it is a small trailing of the overall story of God’s salvation in which all things will actually be made right. Until then, however, we will catch glimpses of this ultimate restoration in small instances. Take Peter, for example.
No one is exempt from denying Christ. We will all stray. Peter had been zealous for Jesus — confessing that he was the Christ (Matthew 16:16), clinging to the words of life that he alone had (John 6:68-69), and even expressing his desire to be there for Jesus when no one else would be (Matthew 26:33).
He wasn’t all talk either. Peter was the one who hosted Jesus on his boat at the beginning as He taught the people and called His disciples (Luke 5:1-11), and he was the only one who stepped out on the surface of the sea after Jesus came walking to them at night (Matthew 14:22-33).
At the same time, Peter is well known for the fateful night in which be denied Jesus three times even after Jesus had told him he would. Peter was not exempt from denying Christ. And neither are we. So long as we live in this flesh, we will all stray (Galatians 5:17).
Our denials are not the final statement of our relationship with Christ. It is a good thing John’s gospel doesn’t end with the denials of Peter and the crucifixion of Jesus. Instead, there is then the resurrection of Jesus and likewise the restoration of Peter.
Denials are not the final answer for the believer in Christ. In fact, two of the most compelling letters in the New Testament to endure through suffering were written by Peter, who had most emphatically not endured through that season of his life. But that wasn’t the end of his story, and it’s not the end of ours either.
Jesus restores us, and then hands us a rein to His mission. Many times, like Peter, we overestimate our commitment to Jesus. And in as many times, we underestimate Jesus’ commitment to us. In John 21, after Peter’s denials, Jesus comes looking for His stray sheep and finds him where He found him at the very beginning — on the Sea of Galilee. He’s fishing, just like the first time (Luke 5:1-11). And he’s caught nothing, just like the first time (Luke 5:5). Jesus provides, just like the first time (Luke 5:4-6). And then calls him to be on mission, just like the first time (Luke 5:10).
Jesus’ restoration is built on love. It’s not built on our love for Him, which comes up short, but it’s built on His love for us, which will never fail (John 21:15-17). This is the continual effect of God’s grace toward us. It’s never used up, never expires, and never fails to cover us to the edges. It’s crucial we know that whether it’s our first time denying Christ or our ten millionth time, He always offers us a fresh start.