I’ve played golf for about 20 years now and I’m still a 13 handicap. I read golfing magazines, I play weekly if possible, and I watch the pros. I was just one of a throng who watched the 2010 Masters in Augusta. CBS News reported that viewership was up 50% over the previous year as a curious public awaited the return of Tiger Woods. Viewers were not disappointed. Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, and Anthony Kim played extraordinary golf in the final round to finish as the top three. Tiger played well as did the “old man”, Tom Watson. But for a while, one thought overshadowed the excellence on display at Augusta. “WHY ARE GOLF BALLS DIMPLED?”
So I did a little (literally) research and concluded that it was a matter of simple physics. Legend suggests that poor young golfer found it necessary to use old, scarred balls of the tee. His playing partners soon noticed that his “scarred” ball traveled farther off the tee than their smooth ones. Research followed revealing that scars or dimples helped the ball travel higher and farther. Now, hold that thought while we take a brief look at everyone’s favorite disciple, Peter.
Luke 22:31-34 offers a glimpse at how calculating the Devil can be in seeking the downfall of those who long to follow Christ. He is pictured in those verses as the accuser of humanity (Revelation 12:10), the one who uses his resources to erode faith and destroy the faithful. The word translated as “has desired” in verse 31 is a Greek word implying a challenge, like that in the Old Testament story of Job. It’s as if Satan appeared before God again and said, “All those followers of Jesus are like a puff of smoke in the wind. A little pressure and they will all forsake Him.” The TEV translation states it this way: “Simon, listen! Satan has received permission to test all of you, as a farmer separates the wheat from the chaff.” Note that Jesus calls him “Simon” rather than “Peter.” At this point, Jesus does not refer to him as a stone or a rock or anything of substantial weight or strength. Instead, He calls him by his old name . . . a reminder that Peter is a mere mortal, a frail, weak human who is unable to withstand Satanic pressures alone.
Jesus warned them all of the impending danger and assured them that He had prayed for their strength. But, in His foreknowledge, He also knew that failure was imminent. He also knew that no one would be harder on Peter than Peter himself. Jesus, with infinite love and mercy, looked beyond Peter’s downfall and saw his potential as a leader in the fledgling Church. He showed His faith in Peter by commissioning him to the task of strengthening his Christian brothers and sisters (v. 32b).
When Peter launched a stern defense assuring Jesus of his loyalty, even if everyone might forsake Him, Jesus simply said, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Those words must have echoed in Peter’s ears just hours later when he heard the rooster’s crow. With guilt and grief that more punishing than death, he left the high priest’s house weeping bitterly. No longer considering himself a part of the apostolic group, I imagine Peter wallowed in self-pity until that third day when Mary came with a special message. I can hear her now: “He has sent me to tell you that He is risen. But Peter, He mentioned you by name. He wants to see you.”
That’s what the EASTER season is all about . . . Second Chances! Human nature hasn’t changed that much. I’m sure Peter heard whispers, endured murderous stares, and felt the sting of gossip from people who only remembered his failure. But all that really mattered was that he had been forgiven, vindicated, and commissioned by Jesus Himself. Fifty days later, this failure would be the one whom God would use to preach the sermon at Pentecost and usher in the birth of the Church.
So, what’s this all about?? It’s about understanding that sometimes failure is necessary. God will sometimes use our failures to strip away pride and a sense of self-sufficiency. Peter’s upper room conversation with Jesus revealed an arrogant self-confidence. His failure opened the way for God’s grace to reshape him. Failure can humble us and restore our focus on Christ. It’s also about understanding that failure can be the soil from which greater opportunities for service can grow. God used Peter as the preacher at Pentecost, not because of his eloquence or education. He used him because his penitent spirit, in the wake of his failure, prepared him for the task. It was his scars and flaws that made him authentic.
Like golf balls, God’s people are usually more effective as ministers when they bear the scars and marks of real life. Through Peter, God has shown us that He can even use our failures to make us stronger and more effective in helping to build His Kingdom. So if you’ve failed somewhere along the way, don’t give up on God. He certainly hasn’t given up on you. That’s the story of Easter and . . .
. . . that’s what Jesus is all about: grace, regeneration, restoration, and another chance.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are just dust.” Psalm 103:13-14