“Simon, Simon!…Satan has asked for you…..But I have prayed for you, that your faith shall not fail and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.”    Luke 22:31-32

Can there be anyone one worse than a betrayer?  Don’t we call those people traitors and think of them as the worse kind of villans?  Think of the names down through history, Brutus, Benedict Arnold, Judas.  Isn’t it interesting that Peter’s name is not one of those whom we name?  Isn’t betrayal even that more heinous when it comes from your very closest friend, one in whom you have put so much trust?

Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter:  “the Rock”.  Peter had been the first one to openly and definitively declare among the disciples that Jesus was the Son of God.  Peter had been one of Jesus’ three disciples in his inner circle; James, John and Peter.  There seemingly would have been no one on earth closer to Jesus than Peter.  And we all know the story.  Jesus has been taken by the mob to the residence of the high priest.  They take Him into the high priest’s house but Peter does not follow.  Instead he stays outside in a courtyard warming himself by the fire.  Then it happens; this man, the closest friend, this man who had seen the power of Jesus first hand as he, himself walked on water at Jesus invitation.  This man who had pledged to die to defend and protect Jesus.  This man is approached and pointed out as being a follower of Jesus.  Once, then a second time and finally a third time, with one gospel saying that he became mad and started to curse, Peter vehemently denies that he knows Jesus.  A roster crows, Peter realizes what he has done, Luke even says Jesus turns and looks at Peter and Peter leaves, totally dejected, totally despondent, weeping bitterly.

Here’s the thing.  Jesus wasn’t shocked by this.  Jesus knew that it was going to happen.  AND, Jesus knew that Peter would return, in faith to Jesus, thus Jesus forgave him.  Jesus forgave Him ahead of time.  The difference between Peter and Judas?  It seems to me it was the fact that Judas never returned to Jesus in faith.  Yes he felt remorse, but it was remorse for being a part of the condemnation of an innocent man.  Peter knew he had betrayed the Son of God.  Jesus knew that Judas would never return to him in faith.  Jesus knew that Peter would return.  Jesus also knew where Peter’s downfall was going to come from; Satan.  Jesus could have told the other disciples to never trust Peter again.  Jesus could have given Peter a lengthy set of tasks to accomplish to prove his worthiness to be trusted again.  Jesus didn’t.  Jesus simply asks him to be Peter; the Rock; and to use his strength as the Rock to strengthen his brothers.

Okay, fine for roughly two thousand years ago and yeah for Peter!  But what does that have to do with now?  Perfection, Jesus Christ was and is and we are not.  Jesus knows.  Jesus knows ahead of time that we are going to fail.  He knows the power of Satan to deceive and tempt and that we are going to willfully choose the wrong path.  Peter was nor forced to deny Jesus, he did that of his own free will.  The same way today, He knows we are going to sin.  And, this is crucial to understand, Jesus knows that we will return and thus He has already forgiven us.  He does not half way welcome us back:  “Now I’ve got my eyes on you!”.  He does not give us arduous tests to complete to get back in His good graces.  No that is what the world requires.  He tells us ahead of time, “You are completely forgiven, come back.”

Think about this in comparison of how the world (Satan) would handle this.  If you mess up, make a mistake, somehow come up short of perfection; you need to be punished.  If you have betrayed, you can probably never do anything to receive complete redemption.  We have a right to judge people and hold them to that standard.  Now the other side of the perfection coin that we use to judge ourselves is quite different.  Satan tells us and we sometimes act upon, perfection is impossible to obtain so don’t bother trying.  Good is good enough.  Then, good is impossible to obtain so not bad is good enough.  Finally, bad is okay because everyone is being bad so why shouldn’t I?  (Don’t believe me?  Try driving the speed limit on the interstate) .

We have an amazing Savior!  He knows perfection because He is perfection.  Yet He knows us.  He asks us to try for perfection because He knows, every time we try, every time we are generous, every time we love unconditionally, every time we decide not to judge, every time we forgive, we get closer.   Jesus Christ knows that we won’t always do what is perfect.  He knows we will sin.  AND Jesus Christ, in perfect love, has forgiven us already.  AND because Our Heavenly Father’s plan was for Jesus Christ to sacrifice His life for ours, Our Heavenly Father has forgiven us as well.  May it always be that in our striving, there is turning, as well as in our falling, there is always returning to Our Heavenly Father, through the Grace and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father we proclaim that You are perfect.  We further testify that You created all things in perfection.  Yet we humbly confess, Dear Father, that we, Your Creation, have fallen short of perfection.  We acknowledge that we are sinners and are deserving of Your judgement.  Yet, Most Merciful Father, we are so exceedingly thankful that instead of the judgement we deserve, You saw fit to send Your Most Holy Son Jesus Christ to die as a sacrifice in our place that we might be forgiven.  Pour out Your Spirit on us, we pray, that we might strive to live a life worthy of that sacrifice.  That we would not do as the world teaches but do what Jesus Christ taught.  We can not express adequately, Most Gracious Father, our gratitude that when we fall, You are there to pick us back up and welcome us back through the body and blood of Your Most Precious Son.  And although, in this life, we may not perfectly attain it, may it be that we live a life of obedience and praise  to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen