Weekly Bible Devotional
“Come, Follow Me: Failure”
January 30, 2022
Scripture: Luke 22:54-62
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house. But Peter was following at a distance. 55 When they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, “This man also was with him.” 57 But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” 58 A little later someone else, on seeing him, said, “You also are one of them.” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” 59 Then about an hour later still another kept insisting, “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.” 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.
Notes on the Text:
We have been looking at the discipleship of Peter as an example for our discipleship. He is presented as the Rock upon which Christ was building his church. You can’t get any more solid than that! Peter is the enthusiastic and bold disciple who puts it all on the line for Jesus. He was the one to first confess Jesus as the Messiah. He was the one to walk on water with Jesus. He was the one to see Jesus transfigured. He was the one who claimed that he would never betray or deny Jesus. But when a time of great fear came upon him with the arrest of Jesus, the pressure was too great to bear. When he faced his own death by the Romans, he was terrified and thus denied Jesus three times.
Peter fell short when it really mattered. When Jesus looked at him and their eyes met, he felt his failure and shame. He cried bitterly as failure and betrayal cut through his self-illusions of power, loyalty, and control. He was no better than Judas! He continued to follow Jesus, but this time was from distance and without the boldness he had before. Yet, Peter’s story of failure became so important to the followers of Jesus that it was recorded in all four Gospels. In the Gospel of Luke, we see it also in light of the pattern of Christ’s concern for those who are “lost.” Only in the Gospel of Luke do we hear about the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost child. Luke also presents the story of the thief on the cross who was lost but then found by the grace of God. In presenting the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus, we can hear echoes of the other stories of God’s grace searching and finding the lost. In fact, Luke is the only Gospel that records that Peter (only male disciple) went to the tomb of Jesus after the resurrection.
Even though Jesus knew that Peter was not strong enough to withstand the fear of the crucifixion, he still saw him without judgment. This is a powerful reminder of how God looks at us and sees us, even in the worst moments. Our discipleship always includes failure. The key is to remember to stay close to Christ’s gaze of love.
The story of Peter’s denial offers us an example of the difficulties when things do not go according to plan. What is denial? It is a lack of memory, a forgetting, a loss of focus on our call to “Come, Follow Me.”
How do we see ourselves in this story? Our failures may not be as glorious or noteworthy as Peter’s denial of Jesus, but every disciple no matter how faithful, must learn to deal with failure. It is an inevitable part of the journey. The normal ways for dealing with failure are either denying it or letting it annihilate us. We sometimes pretend that we are right, while other times we may lose heart and feel that we are not worthy. Either way, we miss the point! The point is that as disciples we know that we need our teacher to guide and to help us along the way. Our egos tell us that we can be independent, moral, or brilliant on our own, but the truth of God’s grace is that our failures can become the places where God’s grace enters in new ways into our hearts to remind us that we are not separate from God.
Henri Nouwen wrote, “Every time you experience the pain of rejection, absence, [failure] or death, you are faced with a choice. You can become bitter and decide to not love again, or you can stand straight in your pain and let the soil on which you stand become richer and more able to give life to new seeds…From the beginning of my life, two voices have been speaking to me: one saying, Henri, be sure you make it on your own. Be sure you become an independent person. Be sure I can be proud of you, and another voice saying, Henri, whatever you are going to do, even if you don’t do anything very interesting in the eyes of the world, be sure you stay close to the heart of Jesus; be sure you stay close to the love of God.”
Prayer by Henri Nouwen:
Today I thought of the words of Vincent van Gogh: “It is true there is an ebb and flow, but the sea remains the sea.” You are the sea. Although I experience many ups and downs in my emotions and often feel great shifts and changes in my inner life, you remain the same. Your sameness is not the sameness of a rock, but the sameness of a faithful lover. Out of your love I came to life, by your love I am sustained, and to your love I am always called back. There are days of sadness and days of joy; there are feelings of guilt and feelings of gratitude; there are moments of failure and moments of success; but all of them are embraced by your unwavering love. . . . O Lord, sea of love and goodness, let me not fear too much the storms and winds of my daily life, and let me know there is ebb and flow but the sea remains the sea. Amen.