The Necessity of Forgiveness Day 13 – I Don’t Know Him
Imagine that your closest friend or a beloved family member attends a trial—your trial for a crime you did not commit. You just want someone who really knows you to vouch for your character, be there for you and support you in every way. A familiar face comes into view, but when they are asked about you, you hear them say, “I don’t even know that person.” Such words of betrayal that it breaks your heart! Someone else asks them and you hear the same response. It happens three times, and then you know—you really know—you’re on your own here!
As passionately as my family stands by me through thick and thin, I honestly have a hard time relating. But let’s just say I did experience that level of betrayal. How would I handle it? How would I respond? Would I ever be able to forgive that person, or would I carry a bitter grudge to my grave? It’s a great question to ask, but even better, let’s allow ourselves to enter in to the feelings Jesus must have certainly experienced as He endured His trial, wrongful conviction, sentencing, and then faced His death, all alone. Jesus’ response in all this is astounding!
When Jesus was arrested and allowed himself to be taken into custody, the disciples initially scattered, afraid of the implications of being associated with Him. But still, some wondered and Peter even lingered nearby. On three occasions he was asked if He was one of Jesus’ followers, but each time he denied it, even denying knowing Him. Jesus had not long before warned Peter that he would deny Him three times, but Peter had sworn that would never happen. Yet a short time later, Jesus’ words came to pass. Immediately after the third denial, Peter heard the rooster crow, just as Jesus had told him. What did he feel in that moment? Intense sorrow, as it says he went away and wept bitterly.
But as this study is on the topic of forgiveness, what stands out beautifully is a scene we find later in John 21. Jesus makes it a point after His resurrection to appear to Peter, knowing his heart was heavy with grief and sorrow over his betrayal. Jesus could see beyond that hurt and grief to a man who would become a leader in spreading the gospel and be instrumental in establishing New Testament churches. He saw beyond the broken, but first He must offer an opportunity for mending:
“This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead. After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love you.’ ‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question… A third time he asked him…” (John 21:14-17a, NLT)
Three times Peter denied knowing the Lord, and three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, each time giving an opportunity to replace denial with affirming love. You see, Jesus doesn’t just forgive; He gives us freedom from our past regrets. He promises to remove our transgressions and to remember them no more. He invites us to step forward, fully forgiven, and then uses us for His glory. We sometimes choose to stay locked in our shame, but that’s not His way for us—it never is.
Peter would go on to do many wonderful works for Christ, purely motivated from a heart of love and a desire to please and honor Him with his life. We read these affirming words he heard from the mouth of His Creator, Friend, and Savior:
“Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.” (Matthew 16:18, NLT)