Earlier this week, my son was using YouVersion’s Bible App for Kids on my phone. As he was watching the Bible stories and playing with the interactive animation and quizzes they offer in the app, I was listening. The story was that of Jesus in the upper room with his disciples, telling them that he would be leaving them soon, telling Peter that no, you will not follow me anywhere, and you will not die for me—not immediately. Not tonight.
Tonight, you will deny that you even know me. Not once, but three times.
Still, Jesus led his disciples out of the upper room and went to the cross.
It must have hurt Jesus, this betrayal. The betrayal by Judas should have been enough; one of the people he had taken in, shared his heart with, was about to hand him over to be killed and Jesus knew it. But I think the betrayal by Peter had to hurt just as much, if not more. Peter was the passionate, impulsive, outspoken one who was always quick, eager, and earnest in his responses to Jesus’ queries. Peter didn’t hesitate to profess his love and loyalty to Jesus, yet that is exactly what he would do in the moments when Jesus was facing the hardest moments of his life. “I don’t know the man!” Not once, but three times.
What struck me the most, though, knowing the story well, was not the betrayal itself. It was the knowledge that, knowing what was to come, Jesus still offered his love and life for Peter, still provided restoration for him so he could move forward and be effective in the kingdom of God. Jesus knew what Peter would need—not only to believe, but to be able to forgive himself—and so, when it was all over, he offered that, too. Jesus allowed Peter to profess his love for him three times, to “erase” the three denials with more emphatic, painstakingly heartfelt professions of love.
What amazed me was realizing that, knowing all I would do and say in this life that would hurt him, Jesus still offered his love and life for me. And he planned, even then, to restore me, to make it possible for me to move forward and bear fruit, more fruit, much fruit (John 15:4-8).
Echoes of this message rang throughout my weekend, from a verse in a worship song* to a powerful reading of Jesus’ last words to his disciples at church—so many echoes that I knew this message must not be for only me, but was one I had to share. Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. He knows everything you have done, everything you will do, and still he chose to love you enough to lay down his life for you. He loves you enough to provide whatever you need to restore your relationship with him, your fellowship with him, and help you move forward so you can serve him, love him, and glorify him.
He loves me like that, too.
*The worship song that most spoke to me was Who Can Compare To You by Bethel, especially this verse:
I am undone
For you see all there was and all that will be
Yet you’ve set your vast affection upon me
By your voice the world was made
And still you called my name