Have you ever had those moments where you were put on the spot and had to say something? Only, when you were in that tight place, you froze and said nothing. Or maybe you said the exact opposite of what needed to be said. Isn’t that an awkward feeling?
For me, I remember being asked a question about Jesus, and being in a large group it was a little unnerving. I choked, didn’t really say a whole lot and the conversation continued onto other things. To be honest, it plagued me for a bit of time and I felt like I turned on my faith.
Perhaps you’ve had a similar situation confront you. You might have said exactly what needed to be said, or maybe it went down a trail that was completely unexpected. But if you have ever been in a place of denying or choking in the moment, I have good news for you.
You are not defined by your denial.
We are told that Peter, days after the resurrection story in John, was fishing out on the sea. He and his crew were doing the same thing they’ve always done and caught zero fish. Then emerged some figure on the distant shore, and this figure yelled out at the group. Faintly hearing the man, the crew listened and tossed the nets onto the other side of the boat. They caught so many fish that the net could not even be dragged into the boat!
Now, what would you do in this situation?
We are told they realized that it was Jesus, the one who was brutally executed days before this. Somehow by the power of God, he was raised three days later in bodily form.
After hearing the command, and then seeing the large amount of fish, Peter jumped into action. Peter, hearing the voice of the rabbi he followed for years, couldn’t wait for the ship to make its way to the shore. Instead, he dove into the sea, racing towards the shore.
I imagine a scene where Peter emerges from the sea dripping wet, and the other men sailing not too far behind. Then Jesus punches Peter in the face.
Oh wait, he didn’t do that. Oops.
Jesus didn’t react how I would have. No, Jesus called them into a private meal, he called them to share breakfast with him. It is here, in this scene on the beach, that Jesus spoke directly to Peter. He confronted him about the denial, but notice it’s not in this brutally condemning manner. He is telling him, “Peter, your past denials do not define you.”
Jesus did not forget the denials, he didn’t whitewash them. No, instead, he did not allow those to be the frame of reference for Peter’s life. Jesus is reconstituting Peter into a different story, one where he was a brave leader in the Early Church. One where he faithfully followed Christ, even if the result was being crucified upside-down. Simon Peter did not lose the chance to live up to the meaning of his name, and be the rock that we see in Acts.
For us, dear reader, we are not defined by our past. We are brought into the story of faith, the story of the Kingdom of God.
You are not defined by your failures or denials. No, you are defined by the Risen Lord and who he says you are. If you are in Christ, then you are a child of God, and you are not defined by your past, you are defined by the righteousness of Christ.
How do you cling to this new reality- this new story?