That Disqualified Feeling (John 21)

Over the years I have done a lot of sports writing, particularly on baseball and specifically about the Baltimore Orioles. Often I have been in the position of evaluating a new player, such as a pitcher. There will be certain positives to write about, with the subject perhaps being one who has a low batting average against – meaning that the other team does not hit for a high percentage against him. Yet at the same time, this pitcher may statistically have a poor “K/BB ratio” … meaning that he walks too many people relative to the number that he strikes out. So it is a mixed bag of historic results relative to how qualified the player is for a contract with high expectations and compensation.

The Apostle Peter was a guy with a mixed background of high spiritual moments of faith, yet mingled with tremendous failures.

Consider some of his faith successes …

– Peter left everything behind to follow Jesus – his business, home, family … everything.

– He had faith to step out of the boat and walk on the water.

– He made great confessional acknowledgements of exactly who Jesus was: the Christ, the Son of God … the only one who possessed the words of eternal life.

But consider also some of Peter’s failures of faith …

– He made bombastic claims: rebuking Christ for his prediction of death… also declaring his allegiance to Christ, even to the point of death.

– He fell asleep on Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

– When Jesus is arrested, Peter impetuously strikes out and cuts off the ear of the servant of the high priest with a small sword that was functionally akin to a pocket knife.

And then there was the greatest failure of all. It is one thing to drop the ball in center field in a playoff game or screw up a contract proposal for the company; but it is another thing completely to deny the Son of God in the midst of a trial … doing it three times!  That is rather disqualifying, isn’t it?

But even in the midst of epic failure, Peter’s heart rang true at a core level. He loved the Lord, truly; but his failures were immense and obvious to all.

Yet there is great grace and restoration. And yet again, even as the sorrows of the death of Christ were turned to joy and relief for Peter in his observance of the empty tomb and appearances of Jesus alive with the disciples, Peter must have continued to believe that his horrific trifold denials had rendered him disqualified for whatever service may yet lie ahead.

Sometime soon after the resurrection in Jerusalem, Peter and the disciples were back home in Galilee, and Peter returns to that happy place of setting out in a boat, fishing. He must have thought that they had forgotten how to do this in the past three years of wandering around with Jesus; they were catching nothing. And a figure on the shore tells them to let down their nets on the other side of the boat, as if that would really make any difference … but it did … triggering also Peter’s remembrance of another such catch, thereby revealing that the figure on the shore is Jesus.

Swimming to the shore ahead of the boat, breakfast is already cooking. And there is Peter, just as he was in the recent past, looking into a fire … just as he had been when denying Christ three times. Here he is with Jesus, who speaks …

“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Three denials, three restorations. You’re forgiven. You’re restored. Get back to work fishing for men.

The lesson is this: Don’t underestimate grace. Don’t believe your failures – whatever they are, be they huge or be they numerous – are beyond forgiveness and restoration in the life of the true believer who loves the Lord.

The feeling of being disqualified lingers at times with all of us, if we are honest and introspective about the condition of our soul and our expressions of faith and service over the years. Though there are setbacks in the world of mortals, with grace, there are no permanent disqualifications. That is, unless you choose to stay out of the game, which is a stupid choice!

Along the way of the Christian life, did you become un-rooted? Did you drift away from God and truth? Get back in the game. There is a uniform with your name on it.

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About Randy Buchman

I live in Western Maryland, and among my too many pursuits and hobbies, I regularly feed 3-4 hungry blogs. I played college baseball, coached championship cross country teams at Williamsport (MD) High School, and am the editor of a Baltimore/Maryland sports blog called "The Baltimore Wire." My main profession is as the lead pastor of a church in Hagerstown called Tri-State Fellowship. And I'm active in Civil War history and work/serve at Antietam National Battlefield with a Guides organization. Occasionally I sleep.

One thought on “That Disqualified Feeling (John 21)

  1. Baseball is a sport where there is only room for the very best in the major leagues. Someone can try very hard and have the best coaching and follow all the best advice and take optimal care of themselves, but not make it to the majors. Not everyone has the genes and natural ability to play on the field. But most could fulfill some other role important to major league baseball. It might be as grounds-keeper or concession stand operator, or someone who paints and maintains the park.

    As Christians, God has many roles for us now and many promised rewards in the Kingdom. Comparing ourselves to others isn’t what God called us to do. He wants us to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ and follow his lead. Jesus, like a good coach or good manager (team manager or stadium manager) knows when to play us. In his wisdom God “works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13 NIV)

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11 NIV)

    “Strive for full restoration” comes from the following Greek word – it may appear as gibberish if a Greek font isn’t installed on the persons computer or device.

    —”καταρτίζεσθε”— is translated something like “to mend, fit, perfect, prepare” translated above by the NIV as “strive for full restoration.”

    So God wants us back in the game. Maybe the best thing to do at times is to “train.” Baseball players take batting practive, fielding practice, take care of their bodies and minds. They research who they are up against.

    Our enemy is a spiritual one who wants us to succumb to hate, divisiveness. We are to learn what Paul taught, which is to be able to overcome evil with good.

    Peter walked on water with Jesus for a bit.

    However what Paul did was helpful to those on the same ship he was on.
    Paul was on a ship that was wrecked. Yet God used Paul’s guidance and for the sake of Paul, God granted that no one on board the doomed ship was to die in the wreck. When the wreck happened God didn’t only save Paul but all 276 who were on board. (Acts 27:34, 36, 37, 44)

    So the ship Paul was on “drifted” and had to “run aground on some island.”

    Maybe there is some national trouble ahead and we need to be in a right frame of mind to help those around us.

    We may need to be close to God so that we can follow him through challenging times – shipwrecks so to speak.

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