”Cometh the hour, cometh the man”, the saying goes (of course it applies equally to women, but this is just a literal requoting). It refers to those who come through when they are needed most. In a more superficial sense, it is used in sporting terms of a batsman who makes a hundred when his team is on the ropes, or the star forward who calmly slots the winning goal with seconds to go.

For many of us though, this statement can be quite discouraging. Some of us have failed at the most crucial times - we haven’t come through, and we live with a gnawing sense of shame and self-loathing for years because of it.

Sun rise

A NEW DAWN: Nils von Kalm says that as Christ showed us through His relationship with Peter, our past need not define our future. PICTURE: James Chou/Unsplash.

 

"For those of us who haven’t come through when we have been needed most, this famous phrase can be seen by us as a way of defining our identity. The good news, though, is that such a statement not only does not define us, but it is overshadowed by another, perhaps less famous phrase: 'Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny'."

For those of us who haven’t come through when we have been needed most, this famous phrase can be seen by us as a way of defining our identity. The good news, though, is that such a statement not only does not define us, but it is overshadowed by another, perhaps less famous phrase: “Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny”.

Our past doesn’t define us. We are worth much more than that. If we have failed those closest to us, we can, in our sorrow over what we have done, be reminded that our failure in no way changes our fundamental identity as people who are deeply loved and who have inherent dignity. Nothing, nothing in all the world, not even our worst failures, can take this away. St Paul says in his letter to the Romans that there is nothing in the whole of existence that can separate us from the love of God that we have seen in Jesus. Such a truth, when taken in, can change our lives.

John’s Gospel has Jesus saying to His disciples that “greater love has no one, than to lay down their life for their friends". These are not just the words, but also the actions of Jesus, demonstrated in His ultimate sacrifice for all of us in His life, death and resurrection.

Paul’s letter to the Romans also says that it was while we were still denying God that He died for us. One of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, could relate intimately with this. On the night before Jesus died, it was Peter who denied he even knew his Master. Thinking only of himself, he pretended to the onlookers that he had never even seen Jesus before. It is, of course, when the rooster crows that Peter is confronted with the fact of failing his best friend. His bitter, painful remorse is then shown for all to see.

How would you have felt if you were Peter in that situation? You’ve just spent the best years of your life with the person your people have been waiting centuries for. He has chosen you to be one of his closest friends, he has stood up for you, affirmed you, and shown you a quality of life you never thought you deserved. But when he needed you, when the roles were somewhat reversed, you failed him. Can you imagine the shame of that? Can you imagine the bitter remorse?

For Peter, though, and for us who have failed, it doesn’t end there. As is His character, Jesus gets alongside Peter and restores him. It all happens in a strange little passage at the end of John’s Gospel, after Jesus has been raised from death. Jesus is walking with Peter along the beach, and does something which seems really weird. He asks Peter if he (Peter) loves Him. Peter responds, saying “you know I love you.” No typical Aussie males here; these blokes know how to express their feelings!

But then, Jesus asks Peter the same question again, and then again! Three times! What is going on here? Is Jesus so emotionally insecure that He needs the affirmation of His best mate three times before He will believe it? Far from it. It is Jesus who is affirming Peter, not the other way around. The three questions Jesus asks correspond to the three denials from just a few nights before that would still have been playing heavily on Peter’s mind.

Jesus knows Peter’s heart; He knows that despite Peter’s failures, hH still loves Jesus beyond measure. And that is shown in the requests that Jesus makes of Peter. He gives Peter a job to do: look after the new Christian movement that would soon follow. Jesus was now trusting Peter, the one who had failed Him so badly, to be a pillar of the new Christian movement.

"[A]nyone is welcome to serve at the feet of this Jesus. We have all made mistakes over the years, but God still chooses to use us. That is not big-noting ourselves; it is actually cause for humility, that the Source of all justice would use even us to work to bring His justice into this broken world."

Jesus had said earlier that Peter would be the ‘rock’ upon which his church would be built, and Roman Catholic tradition says Peter was the first Pope. He was a major player in the early church. Rather than getting him to step down because of his failures, Jesus told him to step up. This was affirmation, forgiveness and trust of the highest order. Peter had failed the Son of God so spectacularly, and what was Jesus’ response? Jesus believed in Peter, and gave him a job to do.

What this highlights for us is that anyone is welcome to serve at the feet of this Jesus. We have all made mistakes over the years, but God still chooses to use us. That is not big-noting ourselves; it is actually cause for humility, that the Source of all justice would use even us to work to bring His justice into this broken world.

Your history doesn’t have to be your destiny. Just look at Peter. He was restored, not just in the sense of Jesus saying “there, there, it’s OK,” but also in the sense of Jesus giving him responsibility. Jesus believed in Peter, and he believes in us.

Restoration, transformation, renewal. This is the great story of the Gospel. Despite what your past may be, you can be restored, renewed and transformed, so that you can restore, renew and transform others. We are the most fortunate people in the world, and it is with this privilege that you can continue to fight for a world in which the love of God rules the day.