by Chris Lenshyn
During Lent, our church will be engaging a specific time of confession during each of our Sunday services. This past Sunday, we went through the normal motions of the service. As a pastor services can feel mechanical in nature… one thing, then the next, then the next, then the service is over. Adding confession to the mix has change that dynamic completely.
Every once and a while I find myself in a place of reflection on the craziness of life. From pastoring, being a husband, friend, neighbor, brother, son and… father. These moments happen seemingly when I am still, which isn’t often so laying awake till 3am is not an abnormal thing for me. But this one hit me at a strange time, just before I was about to preach a sermon on Peter denying Jesus three times. This confession time reminded me that I need to embrace the forgiveness of Jesus. Cause the reality is I don’t do so all the time.
The text where Peter denies Jesus three times in John 18:12-27 is a classic. It is a dynamic engagement of 2 narratives operating in tension with one another. Firstly we have Peter, who when confronted by the mere servant girl about whether or not he is a disciple of Jesus, freaks out a bit and denies that he knows and follows Jesus.
Yet the narrative switches to Jesus being questioned by the higher ups of 1st century Palestine. The words offered by Jesus are as vanilla, and to the point as we experience in the Gospel of John. Jesus replies to the doubts and damning questions by referencing the people who have listened to him, for they will testify he is who he says he is. Jesus is the Son of God.
Meanwhile the narrative shifts again and we have dear Peter. A disciple, who has followed Jesus and should be right and ready to testify. He does not. He yet again denies Jesus when asked. Peter even gets a third chance, and he again denies Jesus.
The narrative is stunning. Particularly at the end where the reader feels the full weight after the rooster crows. Peter messed up and fulfilled the prophecy as he did it. We can’t really blame Peter can we? Jesus was quickly gaining the reputation of a revolutionary, challenging the institutional structures of 1st century Palestine. To be a disciple is to be vulnerable to the same fate as Jesus. Foreshadowing in a sense. Peter is martyred just as Jesus is killed. But not before he is forgiven and…
Here is the thing about this passage: it’s about Jesus.
It is not about Peter as we come to expect in the classic sense of the story. Jesus is who he testified to being in the synagogues and on the streets. The Son of God to bring redemption to this world. He redeems Peter. Just as Jesus redeems us.
As I sat in confession during our service I was reminded of my mistakes. The way I screw up. As a parent it is entirely possible to try your best and screw up along the way. Some mistakes are easier to let go than others but this passage reminds us that we are forgiven. This is important because kids pick up everything. Children will pick up the smallest nuances from the way we live. It is a terrifying reality. One of the most important things you can teach your child is that you are a forgiven person. For me, this realization has contributed to my understanding and ability to continually learn how to be a non-anxious presence in the life of my child.
This is important because at it’s base, forgiveness is freedom. Freedom is a gift. Freedom is found in Jesus. If we deny our children the visible experience of what it looks like to be a forgiven person, we shelter them from the experience of true freedom.
Imagine if Peter denies the freedom in forgiveness Jesus gives him a few chapters later. He would not become the foundational “Rock” of the church. He would not have delivered the dynamic sermon at Pentecost. When you confess, give to Jesus your mistakes and live in the freedom as Peter did, your child will see and experience the freedom of a forgiveness and be empowered by your example of faith.
Because of Jesus.