One of the great comeback stories in the Bible is the story of Peter. His original name was Simon. But, when his brother Andrew brought him to meet the Messiah, Jesus changed his name to Peter, which means “rock.”
Names are powerful. They shape our identity and future. I know a gifted pastor with the last name of “Champion.” I’m totally envious. His whole high school career his teachers just called him Champion. Better still I think is the name Rock. I’m sure Peter thought, “Wow! We’ve found the Messiah, and he believes I’m a rock.”
We all know how Peter was so un-rock like at Jesus most critical hour. At the Last Supper, when Jesus predicted his denial, Peter boldly declared, “Though others deny, I will never deny you Lord!” While Jesus stood strong before his accusers, being mocked, slapped and spit on, Peter warmed himself by a fire. Three times he was asked if he was one of Jesus’ followers and each time he denied it. To put an end to the suspicion, after the third inquiry he let out a flood of cursing. Notice Matthew 26:74, “Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’ Immediately a rooster crowed.” Hearing the crow of the rooster, the rock broke. Ashamed and humiliated he went outside and wept bitterly.
Sunday morning came and Jesus rose to life and appeared in resurrected form to his disciples. Peter still struggled with guilt, shame, and failure, because after Jesus’ resurrection appearances he told the friends, “I’m going back to fishing.” This wasn’t a guys trip blow off steam, to process and plan for the future. Peter was going back to his old life. With no hope for future ministry, he decided to go back to commercial fishing.
After a whole night on the water, they caught nothing. Jesus found them and called from the shore to cast their nets on the other side. Reluctantly they obeyed, and the catch was too great for them to haul in. Peter knew the stranger with fishing tips was Jesus and he jumped out of the boat and swam to shore.
Sitting by the fire, cooking breakfast, Jesus reached out to Peter in grace. He made no mention of his denials. He didn’t say, “You were supposed to be a rock.” He asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter was able to reaffirm his love for Jesus. That three fold confession of love was Jesus’ way of forever erasing Peter’s three fold denial. Not only did Jesus forgive, but he asked Peter to feed his sheep, to be a shepherd, to lead the church about to be born.
Where have you failed? Have you failed to live up to your God-given potential? Have you denied the Lord? When the pressure was on, did you cave? Did you stumble and fall before crossing the goal line? Others may be saying, “You’re toast. Wrap it up. Head for the locker room.” Know today Jesus never gives up. In his hands our failures are never final. He is the God of restoration. He brings us up from the pit of defeat. If you’ll run to him, he will write for you a comeback story for his fame and glory. If he did it for Peter, he will do it for you.
Pray the words of Psalm 40:1-3 today, “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”