It’s amazing how you can read a very familiar part of the Bible and yet see something new in it!
Recently I was reading about the time when Peter said that he would never deny Jesus (Matthew 26):
31 Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’
32 But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
33 Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”
34 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.
What struck me was the quote from Zechariah 13.7 which talks about the sheep being scattered when the shepherd is removed.
Peter couldn’t imagine a scenario in which he would deny Jesus but I think that he also couldn’t imagine a scenario without Jesus being with him. (Although Jesus talked openly about his death, the disciples don’t appear to have understood or to have taken this on board).
Peter did deny Jesus and no doubt he felt terrible about this and so it is wonderful when he meets with the risen Jesus and is restored (John 21).
Jesus says to Peter ‘Do you love me?’ and when Peter responds positively Jesus commissions him to take care of and to feed his sheep.
Jesus takes Peter, the ‘Scattered Sheep’ and commissions him as a ‘Sent Shepherd’.
It’s reassuring to know that Jesus doesn’t respond to our failure with rejection, but instead he sees our failures as growth and learning opportunities.
Jesus’ question to Peter isn’t about professionalism, level of commitment or even holiness. It is about love! If we love Jesus and we allow his love tom transform the way we are living then how much we succeed or fail doesn’t matter.
Peter was far from perfect. In Acts 10 he says ‘NO’ to God but even in that moment he was open to change and he learnt from his conversation and encounter with God. By the end of that chapter his attitude is different as he surrenders to God afresh.
Some of you reading this might feel like ‘Scattered Sheep’ but you need to know that God doesn’t write us off to be afraid, alone and lost forever. God longs to restore, strengthen and to build us up. If we love him then he will help us to become ‘Sent Shepherds’.
God is looking for our love, not our perfection but if we do love and walk with him then he will help us to grow and to become more like him.
Jesus quoted from Zechariah 13 and the start of that chapter speaks of the Messiah, what he would accomplish and the resistance he would face.
‘On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity’ (v1)
Jesus, our Messiah, died to offer cleansing from sin and impurity. We don’t need to be perfect to know him because his sacrifice cleanses us.
We don’t have to be good enough to know Jesus but we are called to love him.
Zechariah 13 finishes with these words about God’s faithful people who he would
put into the fire;
I will refine them like silver
and test them like gold.
They will call on my name
and I will answer them;
I will say, ‘They are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The Lord is our God.’”
This was certainly Peter’s experience and it will be ours if we continue to love, look to and to call on God. At the end of the struggles and difficulties we will be left with ‘They are my people’ and ‘The Lord is our God’.
If I owned sheep, I wouldn’t promote one of them to become the shepherd but this is what Jesus does and is doing!
God, I pray that as we love, look to and call on you more that you would transform and change us. Help us to be secure enough in your love and acceptance to accept that we will fail and that when we do to have the confidence that you will lovingly restore us. Thank you that you will never leave us or forsake us. Amen