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Only Grace

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

(By Rachel Joyce)

I read the words and cringe,

Dreading what comes next.

Stop, Peter! Please, don’t

Be so sure of yourself.

The perfectionist in me agonizes,

The good girl, trying to get it right,

So afraid of failure, of messing up

And missing out, not measuring up.

How can I read this again?

Why did it have to be this way?

Such unmitigated unfaithfulness

Recorded in all four gospels!

Peter’s protests echo in my ears,

“Even if I must die with you,

I will not deny you!”

And on they trudge to Gethsemane,

Where Peter sleeps while Jesus prays,

In an agony of anticipation

Of that fearsome cross

Which looms ahead.

As the great crowd of elders

And chief priests seize Jesus,

Not only Peter, but all the disciples

Melt away into the darkness.

And Jesus willingly surrenders Himself

To the high priest for interrogation.

He stands alone, condemned, and hated

By those He has come to save.

Peter, fearful, follows afar and then

Sits in the courtyard beside the servants,

Warming himself near the flickering

Flames of the charcoal fire.

Once, twice, three times he denies

His Lord, until the crowing of the rooster

Brings him to his senses and he realizes,

Remembers Jesus’ words:

“Before the rooster crows today,

You will deny me three times.”

And then across the courtyard,

Peter glimpses his Lord.

The tender, compassionate eyes

Of Jesus gaze deeply into his own,

Shame and anguish well up as bitter

Tears streak down dusty cheeks.

And he thinks all is lost: his Lord,

His character, his future, but these

Deaths are just the darkness

Before the morning of new life,

When desolation’s abyss is filled

By overflowing love and grace,

Which pursues, heals, and restores,

Those crushed by sin and failure.

Dawn’s first rays pierced the blackness

Of His empty tomb as the angel tells

The trembling women, “He is risen!”

“Tell his disciples, including Peter.”

But resurrection joy and wonder

Still hold the heaviness

Of Peter’s shame and he reverts

To what he knows so well - fishing.

The pink and golden rays of dawn glint

Across the Sea of Galilee as the weary disciples

Draw in their empty, dripping fishing nets

And head toward the sandy shore

Where a lone figure calls out to them,

“Children, do you have any fish?” And

At their “No,” the command comes,

“Cast the net on the right side.”

As they obey, their bulging net shimmers

With wriggling fish, and John whispers,

“It is the Lord.” So Peter leaps into the water

And wades through the waves to Jesus.

Fish sizzle, roasting over glowing coals.

And the smell reminds Peter of the stench

Of his betrayal. But Jesus says, “Come!

Bring your fish and come eat mine.”

Breakfast with Jesus - His fish and theirs,

Along with bread and grace, offered

Freely as the breakers spill out

In foam upon the Galilean beach.

And to the rhythmic beating of the waves,

Came Jesus’ questions, “Simon…do you

Love me?” three times over. Three affirmations

To drown out the three betrayals.

“Lord, you know everything, You know…

My failure, my faithlessness, my sin.

You know my heart, how small my love

And loyalty are. You know it all.

But now I know, your love for me — love

Stronger than death, greater than my sin,

Steadfast, unwavering, and unceasing.

Despite my denials, you love me still.”

Years later, Peter writes (because Peter knows)

Of the mighty power of God’s loyal love,

To restore, support, and strengthen, us

And enable us to stand firmly in His grace.


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