Herald Journal Columns
March 7, 2005, Herald Journal
Pastor's Column

Easter is all about the good news of a second chance

By Rev. Sherri L. Sandoz, Bethel Lutheran Church, Lester Prairie

There’s no polite way to say it. Brash, impetuous Peter openly betrayed Jesus.

The raw emotion of it sends shivers up my spine. Three years of life with Jesus, three years of expectation and hope were squashed – like a bug – in one last impulsive moment of fear.

How his heart must have ached as each treacherous word fell from his lips into the cold night air. With each word, a death: first, his hope for Messiah; then, his dream of the kingdom; and ultimately, the spirit within him.

A few hours before, Jesus was with his disciples. A few hours before, Peter was willing to die for his Master. A few hours before, there was still a future.

But now, the Master, only a few yards away, was forsaken, condemned, and about to be beaten.

What strikes me most is what happened right after Peter’s third denial. In Luke 22:61, we read that “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’”

The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.

It’s bad enough to betray someone you love. The weight of that, alone, has crushed many a soul. Yet, to betray the one you love, and, at the very same moment look into his eyes!

Did Peter’s life pass before him? Did time slow itself? Was this the braking skid just before impact?

For Peter, everything else seems to freeze in time. The voices, the footsteps, and the crackling fire fade to background, but for the beating of his heart as Jesus locks eyes with him . . . and I shudder.

What was in the face of Jesus as He turned to look at Peter? Anger?

Who could blame Jesus if there was fire in his eyes? He was alone. None of his disciples stood by Him.

Three years of discipleship and companionship! Didn’t that mean anything to these people?

Was it disappointment? Jesus turns precisely at the moment of Peter’s third betrayal. It had to hurt even more than Judas’ dirty deal.

After all, Peter was on the inside.Peter was the one called out into the water. Jesus had stayed in his home. Peter was on the mountaintop at the Transfiguration. Peter was the rock solid one on whom Jesus placed the future of his church.

The closer the friend, the deeper the betrayal. Jesus had every reason to look on Peter with deep disappointment.

But, I don’t think that Jesus had either the look of anger or disappointment. These emotions would be expected, and therefore, somehow, easier to deal with.

No, I think Jesus looked upon Peter with overflowing compassion. Jesus could read the heart of Peter. He knew the pain, the fear, and the confusion racing though Peter’s mind.

Jesus, too, had weakened with the thoughts of that night. He had looked for a way out, that his cup be removed. Jesus understood.

Jesus knew that Peter’s heart was breaking, and he turned with tears in his eyes and love radiating from his being. Peter’s overwhelming shame was met with Jesus’ overwhelming compassion. That was what sent Peter running and weeping bitterly. It was too much.

If ever there was someone in desperate need of a second chance, it was Peter. But how do you get a second chance when the person you have betrayed is about to be crucified? How can the damage be undone?

Peter couldn’t undo it, but God could.

Peter got a second chance that post-resurrection morning when Jesus broiled fish for breakfast on the shores of Galilee. There, Jesus asked three times if Peter loved him. Of course, Peter loved him and he said so – three times.

Forgiveness already belonged to Peter, but Jesus knew that it would take an extra measure to abolish Peter’s profound shame. The betrayal was undone by Peter’s profession of love and his promise to feed Jesus’ sheep. Peter’s life was redeemed, empowered, and given the freedom of a second chance.

Jesus also gives us a second chance. As we approach Easter, we are readying ourselves for a transformation: transformation from death to life, from despair to joy, from sorrow to a second chance.

We might say that our Easter celebration is all about the good news of a second chance.

May you be blessed to discover the second chances of Easter in your own life.

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