1986 was my year of failure. I graduated from college with a degree in Telecommunications / TV production (that wasn’t the failure) but I had no work experience and no contacts, which meant I had no job. After a few months of being unemployed, I went to work with some friends at a summer camp, which closed early because the owners decided they didn’t want to run a Christian camp, they would rather sell their land and make a lot of money.
So I traveled across county with the plan of landing in LA and finding a job in the TV industry. I have shared that disaster story a few times. I was truly a fish out of water, and couldn’t figure out what to do in LA, so finally asked my parents to send me some money so I could return home, which I did. I still couldn’t find a job, so a few months later I moved to South Bend IN, and lived with my sister and her family because there was a large Christian TV station in the area and I thought that I might be able to get a job there. I applied and I was turned down. I applied for several other jobs in business and was turned down. I finally landed a job in the TV industry. I sold cable TV subscriptions door to door.
Yes, for several months I was a door to door salesman. Not only did I not like the job, but I wasn’t very good at it. I had a 3 month probation and about 2 months in I started looking for another job because I wasn’t happy. When I found a new job I went to my boss and gave my two weeks’ notice. He said, oh I’m so glad to hear that because we were going to tell you that we just didn’t think this was the right job for you. In other words, I was going to be fired.
It was not a good year for me. I failed in jobs, and in finding jobs. I failed in picking good places to live and making good choices for my future, but here is what I learned. My failures were not final. My poor choices didn’t determine my future. I was given a second chance, a third chance, another chance, and that is what we see so clearly in the forgiveness of Jesus – it always gives us a second chance.
It was the forgiveness of Jesus that gave Peter a second chance, actually, it was a third or fourth chance actually, so maybe we need to say that the forgiveness of Jesus gave Peter another chance. In the hours leading up to Jesus’ arrest, trail, and crucifixion, Peter boldly said that no matter what, he would be faithful and stand with Jesus. Mark 14:27-31. No matter what happens Jesus, I am with you. That was Peter’s promise, his commitment, but it wasn’t long before he failed, not once, not twice, but three times.
First Jesus led his disciples into the garden of Gethsemane where he asked them to pray with him. He specifically took Peter, James, and John with him and asked them to stay awake and pray with him. But they didn’t, they fell asleep. Peter fell asleep. Failure #1.
Then Judas arrived in the garden and with a kiss he pointed Jesus out as the one the religious leaders were looking to arrest. Jesus was arrested and when he was, Peter didn’t stay with him, and he didn’t demand to go along, in fact it says that he, along with the rest of the disciples, deserted Jesus. They ran away. Failure #2.
But we need to give Peter some credit because he decided to follow along in the shadows to see what was going on, and he soon settled into a courtyard where he could listen to Jesus being questioned by the religious leaders. While there, Peter was identified and asked if he was one of Jesus followers, and not once, or twice, but three times Peter emphatically denied it. Failure #3.
3 times Jesus failed Jesus, and the third time he failed Jesus 3 times, and if this was the end of the story, the message would be that our failures are final, and we are finished. But this is not the end of the story. Fast forward a few days and Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to his disciples. By coming to them, Jesus was offering them forgiveness, and a second chance to follow him, but then Jesus went out of his way to forgive Peter, and the way Jesus offered forgiveness makes clear that forgiveness brings us all another chance.
So let’s look at that story. After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his followers at different times and in different places. One of those places was along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and the time was when the disciples had decided to go fishing. They were out in the boat and had not caught anything when Jesus appeared. He told them to cast their nets off the other side of the boat, which they did, and it was then that they hauled in a huge catch of fish. This miracle told them it was Jesus on the shore, so Peter jumped into the water to get to Jesus as quickly as possible. When he arrived, Jesus had made them breakfast by cooking some fish over a fire, and it was after breakfast, sitting by the fire, that Jesus asked Peter some questions. John 21:15-17.
3 times Peter had been questioned by a fire and asked if he knew Jesus, and 3 times he said no. Three times he had failed. Now, 3 times by a fire, Peter is asked if he loves Jesus, truly loves him, and 3 times he says yes, and then Jesus invites Peter to once again be part of God’s work in the world. Feed my lambs. Care for my sheep. 3 times Peter failed, and 3 times Peter was forgiven, and the forgiveness of Jesus opened the door for Peter to once again be a follower of Jesus, and a leader in the movement of Jesus.
The forgiveness of Jesus not only wipes away the failure of our past, it restores our relationship with God, which opens the door to our future. The forgiveness of Jesus gives us a second chance. This is a beautiful story, but it is not unique. In fact, this is the ongoing story of God’s relationship with the world. Adam and Eve failed, but God gave them a second chance. There were consequences to their disobedience, but God didn’t toss them aside forever, he continued to care for them.
Abraham failed God several times, and yet God forgave him and gave him another chance. Moses failed God, and yet God gave him a second chance, a third chance, and a fourth chance. David failed God, and yet God didn’t depose him as king but worked with him as he moved forward. Jonah was asked by God to be a prophet and he said no and ran away. God then forgave him and gave him a second chance. Peter failed and was given a second chance.
The apostle Paul was given a second chance. Paul began his life persecuting the followers of Jesus until the day Jesus appeared to him and called him to change his ways. Paul accepted that forgiveness, and Jesus gave him a second chance at being faithful to God, and being a leader among God’s people.
Giving second chances has always been the story of God. God loves us enough to forgive us and with that forgiveness comes reconciliation, restoration and a second chance. God loves us enough to always forgive us and always want us to start over again. It’s not one and done with God. It’s not even three strikes and you’re out, with God, our failures, our sin, is never final, because the forgiveness of Jesus always brings with it another chance at life, another chance at faith, and another chance at a future with God.
Being given a second chance by God means that we also need to give serious and faithful thought to giving a second chance to others. I want to be clear and say here that we are not Jesus, so there will be some situations where we have been offended so violently, or the person who has failed us is so dysfunctional, that walking away is the best course of action. Forgiveness can mean simply walking away from a toxic situation. But for most situations in our lives, forgiveness means giving people another chance.
It was actually Peter who asked Jesus how many times we should forgive someone. He asked Jesus if we should forgive someone 7 times, because that would have been seen as being very generous. To give someone 7 chances to get it right should be enough, and then we can stop forgiving, right? Wrong. Jesus said, not 7 times, but 70 x 70 times. Jesus didn’t mean 4,900 times, but all the time. We should always be willing to give people another chance.
While this is the standard and the example Christ has set for us, we live in a very broken and complex world. There are times when it is best to forgive and walk away, and in these situations, forgiveness means letting go of the offense and not looking for revenge or restitution. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we have to give others another chance to hurt us, but it does call for us to think deeply and pray about what God wants for us, and from us, and for the other person. As much as it is possible, and safe, and healthy, we need to consider extending to everyone another chance.
Today we once again share in communion. When Jesus first gathered with his disciples at this table, he knew they were going to fail him, desert him, and deny him. Jesus knew that there was one person at the table who was going to betray him, and yet, Jesus welcomed them all, so at the table he was giving them another chance.
After his resurrection, Jesus shared several more meals with his disciples, and at each meal he took food, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to those gathered there, and each time Jesus did this it was a reminder of this meal, and Jesus was saying once again, I forgive you. I give you another chance.
Each time we come to the table, we come as sinners who have failed to love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. Each time we come to the table we come as sinners who have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves. Each time we come to the table, the forgiveness of Jesus gives us another chance to love God fully and love others faithfully. The forgiveness of Jesus meets us here again today, and in the bread, and in the cup, we are forgiven, and given a second chance. And a third chance. In the bread and in the cup, in the forgiveness of Jesus, we are given another chance.
Forgiveness brings a second chance.
Connect with God
- Peter failed Jesus three times, and the third time he failed three times. Read his story in Matthew 26:36-75.
- In what ways have you failed to stay with Jesus and stand with Jesus?
- Confess to God these and other failures.
- In silence, sit with God. Thank Him for another chance.
- Identify one way you can make Jesus the center of your life this week.
Connect with the Church
- Pray for the church to be a community that offers people a second chance.
- How can you help make this happen?
- Continue to pray for someone you can invite to our Holy Week worship services.
- Set aside time to worship with the church during Holy Week. (Special times include the Easter Cantata, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunrise.)
Connect with the World
- Offer your time to a mission in our community that offers a second chance.
- What neighbor, coworker, friend, or family member is looking for you to give them a second chance?
- Pray for the ability to forgive them.
- Find one way to bless our community between now and Easter.
- Give your time and energy to Serving our Seniors. (Sign up in the lobby or online)