“Peter came to [Jesus] and asked, ‘Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ Jesus replied, ‘but seventy times seven!’” (Matthew 18:21-22, NLT)
I’m so amazed by God! In the Old Testament, God did not reject Abraham because of his many lies. God did not reject Moses because of his violent crime. He did not reject David because of his adultery. God did not reject Jonah because of his disobedience. Whenever these heroes of faith truly repented from their sins and ask for forgiveness – God forgave them.
What amazed me more is that in the New Testament, God is still the same! When I read about how God deals with Peter, He does it in exactly the same way. Peter has been one of the closest disciples to Jesus (together with his brother James and John). He has heard Jesus’ teaching and seen Jesus performed miracles after miracles. Peter has even preached and worked miracles in Jesus’ name. Besides all that, Peter has seen Jesus transfigured, glowing with the glory of God (see Mark 9), and he was the one who know and confess that “[Jesus] are the Messiah” (Mark 8:29), the Son of the living God.
But not long after that Peter denied Jesus. Not one. Not twice. But three times Peter denied Jesus, insisting with swear words that he did not know his Lord (see Mark 14:66-72). As Peter remembered Jesus’ words and his own betrayal, he broke down and wept. Did this mean that Peter was finished? That God would never use him again? That he would be rejected from the Twelve? That Jesus would despise and ignore him? That he would be publicly rebuked? That Peter had to do something to make up all of his failures and mistakes? The answer is: No! God of the Bible doesn’t behave like that.
As soon as Jesus had risen from the dead He appeared to Peter (see Luke 24:34). Behold, Jesus took initiative. He makes the first move. He went to the sinner and embraced him. I imagined how precious words and wonderful images it was for Peter when he experienced forgiveness and forgiven by the Lord. Awesome! Jesus then appeared again to Peter to show that he is forgiven and that Jesus had a place for him in God’s service. As if to counter-balance Peter’s three times denial, Jesus asked him three time questions: “Do you love me?” (see John 21:15-17). Jesus wants Peter to feed and to take care for the Good Shepherd’s sheep.