Peter’s denial of Christ is something all believers are familiar with. Jesus spoke it, and it happened(which is fodder for another time – The spoken Word) three times.
And then what?
I’m sure Peter was consumed by guilt.
Probably every step he took afterwards in the company of the Lord was plagued by condemning thoughts. ‘What was I thinking??’, ‘How could I???’, ‘I blew it.’, etc. (Somehow I think we’ve all been there.
But the threes in Peter’s life do not stop there. Take a look:
In the Gospel of John, Peter and Jesus were walking along having some male bonding time while fishing. I don’t know about you, but I think Peter was a bit uncomfortable on the heels of the 3 denials. I think he was especially uncomfortable when Jesus asked, “So…Peter, do you love me?”
I think he probably physically flinched when asked that question. Ouch!
Three times, the Lord asked. Three times Peter said yes, and three times Jesus said, “feed my sheep.”
Sometime later, Peter was seeking the Lord in prayer on a rooftop. He was given a vision that became the prompting for Peter’s life song. Three times.
Yep, three times the sheet came down, the animals walked around on it and Jesus told Peter, “Nothing I have created it unclean.”
Immediately following this, three men came to Peter to take him the house where he was to truly begin his life purpose: Declaring salvation for all men – because no one God created is exempt (unclean) from the transforming power of the gospel.
My point: There were lots of threes in Peter’s life. The denial first, of course, and from there it appears that Peter needed to hear some things three times. Why?
Our more legalistic brethren and sisteren (a word made up by a friend of mine) might say that this was God’s way of reminding Peter of the denial so that he (Peter) would not “think more highly of himself than he ought.
I don’t think so.
I am a grace loving, mercy giving child of The Most High God and I submit to you that the threes in Peter’s life were never to remind him of what he had done, but confirmation and affirmation of where God was taking him. A reminder of God’s love. An affirmation and confirmation of God’s purpose in Peter’s life. A way of saying, “You, Peter, yes you, are worthy.”
Jesus spoke very clearly when He said that He did not come to condemn the world, but to save the world. The nagging voice in your head that speaks to you of your past failure, is never the voice of God. It is the ENEMY of God that tries to lay the “guilt trip” trap. Don’t fall for that. Don’t ever think that you, as His child, are anything less than 100% righteous, and 100% worthy.
Sometime later in life, In his 2nd book, the 3 chapter (another 3), Peter said this: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (vs 9). This was Peters reflection of his own ministry, and his encouragement to others who have “denied.”
Remember: Guilt trips are never from God’s travel agency. They come straight from the “other side.” And lest the legalist yell, “CONVICTION! God convicts us!” you can be sure that “conviction” is never GUILT.
I thank Him today and evermore for His grace, love and mercy. I thank Him for the freedom that comes with knowing that He created nothing ‘common or unclean’. I thank Him for the three’s in Peters life that mapped out Peter’s lifesong.
Grace, not guilt. That is HIS way.