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Bouncing back

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” Matthew 26.34

"The Second Chance Disciple" is how Oxford scholar, Markus Bockmuehl, describes Simon-Peter. Infamous for his impetuous behaviour, revered for his willingness to speak up on behalf of his fellow disciples, Simon-Peter's relationship to Jesus is complex: one moment commended for his unequivocal recognition of Jesus as Messiah, the next condemned for his failure to accept what that means. Overshadowing everything is his betrayal of Jesus at the darkest moment, when Jesus is on trial, followed by that cherished, if ambiguous, restoration by the Sea of Galilee, when Jesus asks three times: "Do you love me?" and restores his pastoral commission.

That Simon-Peter is held up as an example of Christian discipleship is both a recognition of the human aptitude for failure and our ready access to God's grace when we come to our senses and confess. The reason Simon-Peter did not go the way of the other disciple who betrayed Jesus that night, Judas Iscariot, is that Simon-Peter loved and trusted Jesus, while Judas had already given up on him and consequently had given up on life, missing the opportunity for that second chance.

Tragically Judas is not alone. Whether through disillusion or pride, many Christians have fallen away - because they fell out of love with Jesus. The rest of us may not be perfect but, accepting that Jesus really is "the way, the truth, the life", we cling to his promise to enable us, through the Holy Spirit, to accomplish what we could never manage in our own strength. And that includes being faithful!

Are you tempted to abandon your faith, turn your back on the church, or succumb to a lesser - though still serious - breach of principle? Perhaps you already have and wonder if there is any way back? Simon-Peter is considered exemplary, not because he got it right all the time but because, when he got it wrong, he was open to God's restorative capacity. The Second Chance Disciple is everyone who believes that the Lord's redeeming grace is stronger than our propensity to sin - and acts upon that conviction.



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