Blossoms have appeared in the long-neglected flowerpot by my sidewalk.
I did not expect this to happen.
This strawberry plant, purchased with such good intentions a few seasons ago, has been thoroughly un-tended…through scorching-hot Carolina summers and iced-over winters, it has not been given any care. The soil is the same layer of Miracle-grow bought with the plant itself…and so, when I glanced at the pot at all over the past few spring-sweet weeks, I thought for sure that the weeds were thriving but the actual plant was hopeless.
But – undeserved and unexpected – there it is, a simple white flower reaching out for sunshine.
And with some clearing out of the weeds, some water for its roots, some rejuvenation of the soil…we might even see strawberries.
We have been given a second (third? fourth?) chance to bear fruit.
I look at the flower a little longer, thinking about second chances…thinking about grace.
I think about the words given to the women when they went to anoint the body of their Savior and found an empty tomb – “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” (Mark 16: 6-7)
Those two little words – ‘and Peter’? To the man who had denied his Lord – those two words meant ‘you are still loved, you are still welcome’…they meant grace.
Peter’s grief over the death of Jesus was compounded by the regret he felt, the shame he carried, the sorrow of that moment when the rooster crowed and his eyes met the eyes of the One he loved…the Lord he had just denied. Luke shows us this moment – no doubt forever burned into Peter’s memory – in his 22nd chapter: 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.”
And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62)
Haven’t we all been there? We make our proclamations of faithfulness, we determine to seek and serve our God with all of our hearts…and then – just like Peter did on that night…we fail to follow through on our promises. We make mistakes. We choose sin. We just mess up. And, then, like Peter – we feel heart-broken and undone. Maybe Peter wondered – perhaps, too, we wonder – if there’s hope for us.
Maybe we feel like the damage has been done. Maybe we have wandered away from who God has called us to be for so long that our hearts feel stagnant, overrun with distraction and the debris of our struggles. Maybe we wonder if there’s any life left beneath the surface of it all. Maybe we look at ourselves and see the grasping weeds of sin and shame where all of our good intentions were once so carefully planted…maybe we find ourselves where Peter was on that day of Resurrection – uncertain of our place in His presence.
If I were Peter, I might have wondered why Jesus would want me anywhere near Him after I was so faithless. Wouldn’t it be better to just go back to my fishing boat? For how could His words to me – you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church – come to pass now, after I had so blatantly betrayed Him not once, not twice – but three times?
But the angels said ‘tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee and there you will see Him…’ –and so the hope of another chance kindled and burned brightly in Peter’s heart…isn’t it only the marvel of mercy that would cause a man –too impatient to wait for the boat to travel even a hundred yards — to jump out of a boat at the sight of Jesus on the shore, swimming with all his might to draw nearer to Him? (John 21)
Jesus looked directly at the sin of all mankind – Peter’s, mine, yours – and He shouldered it Himself, bore it on the cross so that we can find forgiveness. He knows that our good intentions – our best efforts, our strength of will – aren’t going to be enough…they never have been. That’s why He came – because He alone is the perfect sacrifice and His blood alone covers our sins.
Undeserved and unexpected, we are given grace.
After his exuberant dash from the boat to the beach, Peter and Jesus had a conversation…and Jesus questioned him three times – Do you love Me? With each answer, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep. Peter’s mistakes did not prohibit him from fulfilling the work God had called him to do for the church…with pruning and Spirit-life poured into Peter, he bore much fruit for the glory of God.
If you are in a place of neglected soul and wrong turns – can I just offer you the same hope that was offered to Peter (and to every single one of us?) – you are loved…you are welcomed…you have a place in Him. His grace is stronger than the sun-scorched season that seems to have dried up our lives, His mercy runs deeper than the roots of any sin, and He calls forth life even when we think all is lost.
With the resurrection of Jesus, we are given this chance of new life — because He overturned sin, death, and condemnation on that day. We have hope of fresh beginnings, our sins forgiven, our hearts tended by the One who knows exactly what needs to be cleared away…and He plants His own Spirit within our hearts. With His love, we find grace…and with His grace, new life comes.
May there be a wildly abundant and beautiful harvest among us.
“When we were overwhelmed by sins, You forgave our transgressions.” –Psalm 65:3
“If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing….this is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” –John 15:5 & 8