Not once, not twice, but three times Peter failed. Not once, not twice, but three times confronted with temptation he succumbed. Over, and over, and over again he lost sight of the call the Lord had placed on his life. Repeatedly he refused to make the right choice. Continuously he faltered in his faith. Three times he gave into the weakness of his flesh. (Luke 22:54-62)
Lord knows I'm not beating up on Peter. Ashamedly, I've been too much like him.
"The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter..." v. 61
Peter's triplet denial of Christ is not a new story, but I'd never caught this before. The look of his Savior in the midst of the denial. I imagine Christ looked directly into his soul. It wasn't just that he denied Christ - it was that just a few feet away, Jesus was being mocked, harassed, beaten and battered while Peter was within earshot and eyesight disowning him.
I can imagine the look of horror at the realization. I can feel the stinging tears as he wept bitterly. I can sense the weight of guilt that buried him. I can understand the haunting images of reliving that dreadful moment, wishing he had chosen differently, beating himself up over and over and over again, knowing the punishment he put himself through would never reconcile his soul.
We know about the reinstatement of Peter in John 21. Three times he denied the Lord and three times the Lord asks and lovingly instructs him. But before that exchange ever occurs, Peter has resolved to live under the oppression of guilt, the rendering of himself useless and unworthy, and he reverts back to who he was before he ever met Christ.
"I'm going out to fish," Peter says in John 21:3. Not fishing for men like he had learned from his Lord, but literally fishing for fish. He spent all night and caught nothing. I imagine he must have felt like a complete and utter failure at that point. He denied Christ, failed as a disciple, and now couldn't even catch a fish. <Enter the self-loathing and imminent pity party.>
If the devil doesn't knock us down with repeated attacks at the same weakness, then he buries us underneath the weight of guilt to render us useless.
This is exactly where Christ found him. It's right where He meets us, too. That feeling of hurt, remorse, guilt and pain is where God plants the seeds of grace. It's where He cultivates our hearts to grow. It's where He brings rest to our souls. It's where He asks us to build an altar in reverence and in worship as we remember His atoning sacrifice for us.
As we honor His grace at work in our lives, He begins to remove the layers of unclean rags and robes us with His righteousness. He helps us shed the weight of guilt by taking our burden and replacing it with His yoke that is light. We build an altar of remembrance and we honor our Lord for taking our place. We are mindful of our undeserving place of grace, yet we never take for granted the God of another chance.