Devotion for the Week...
Have you ever said something and regretted it as soon as the words left your mouth? You apologized right away, but nothing you said could erase those words. Yeah, I thought so. Me too. Sometimes those words can be enough to destroy relationships or careers. Sometimes, though, despite how awful the words may have been, the person hurt by them forgives. Though they may never forget, they choose to accept the apology and move on. Have you been forgiven like that? Isn't it a relief to know the relationship is still okay?
The apostle Peter knew both the agony of having said words he wished he could take back and the utter relief of being forgiven. After Jesus was arrested, "Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat with the guards to see the outcome" (Matthew 26:58). Three times people came up to Peter as he waited in the courtyard and asked if he had been with Jesus. Each time Peter denied it, saying first, "I don't know what you're talking about,"(v. 70) and then "I don't know the man!"(vv. 72, 74).
In his gospel, Luke says that Jesus "turned and looked straight at Peter" (Luke 22:61) after Peter finished speaking the third time. Can you imagine how Peter felt when his eyes met those of his friend? Earlier, when Jesus predicted that Peter would disown Him, Peter had said, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you" (Matthew 26:35). Now, with Jesus looking straight at him, Peter is horrified by what he has said. To make matters worse, he can't even apologize. Instead, "he went outside and wept bitterly" (Matthew 26:75). I think if it had been me, I would have sobbed uncontrollably.
The most amazing thing about this story is not how completely Peter screwed up, it's how completely he was forgiven. Nowhere in the Bible do we get to read about when Peter apologized, but I would imagine it was one of the first things he said once he had a moment to speak with Jesus. In John 21:15-18, though, we read of Jesus asking Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Each time, when Peter answered yes, Jesus told him to "Feed my lambs...Take care of my sheep...Feed my sheep"(vv. 15, 16 and 17). Sometimes we might forgive someone, but not really trust them again. In this passage, though, Jesus entrusts Peter with the work of the soon-to-be-born church. Peter could move on from that moment with complete confidence, knowing that his relationship with Jesus was completely restored and those awful words he spoke would not be held against him in any way.
That same forgiveness and restoration is still available to us today. No matter what awful things we may have said or done in the past, Jesus is always willing to forgive those who are sorry and ask for His forgiveness. There are no specific words that need to be said, no special formula to follow. We can simply speak to Him as we would any other friend and tell Him that we are sorry. He will forgive us and completely restore our relationship with Him. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). It is amazing, I know, but it is wonderfully true.
So, has your relationship with Jesus been completely restored?