Have you every promised anyone that you would do something and then not followed through on that promise? Found that it was “easier said than done”? Even though I try to be a scrupulously honest person, I have not followed through on things that I have said more times than I can count. It might be something simple as saying “I’ll pray for you” and then forgetting to pray. It might be saying that I would do a certain thing or read a particular book or be someplace by a specific time. There might be very good reasons why I didn’t do what I said I would do. When it comes right down to it, however, the thing was easier said than done. Because I said it, but I didn’t do it.
Many people in the Bible found that it was easier to say something than it was to do it. Ananias and Sapphira said that they had given all the money from a piece of land they sold but they held some back. Jacob lied when he claimed to be Esau and accepted his father’s blessing. Paul moans “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Romans 17:18.
Simon Peter is one of the best examples of this. He was impulsive and impetuous and there is no doubt he loved Jesus completely and wholly. In Matthew 26:33-35, when Jesus predicts that all the disciples will turn away from him, Peter protests, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Jesus tells Peter he will disown Jesus three times. Peter again states, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Of course we know how that part of the story ends. That very night Peter does, indeed, deny knowing Jesus three times.
Imagine how Peter felt. That night he was afraid for his life and not understanding what was happening. As soon as the words came out of his mouth, did he want to snatch them back? The last words in Matthew 26 are that Peter cried bitterly. The words tasted bitter in his mouth. The denial was bitter in his heart. And, in the days that followed, even after the resurrection, did Peter still remember his denial with shame and regret? Were his last words as a follower of Jesus going to be those words of denial?
How about us? Have we been honest with Jesus about our daily walk or do we say one thing and act in a different way? Do we put on a good face for others on Sunday morning and go our own way the rest of the week? We have promised, at one time or another, to follow wherever Jesus calls us. But did we find that it was too hard, too time-consuming, too expensive, or just really not our thing? Do we make excuses for not following up on our promises? Are our hearts broken by the times we have not lived up to the words we have spoken or the promises we have made?
Jesus gives Peter a second chance. In John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times if Peter loves him. Peter, this time knowing what it might cost him, promises to follow Jesus wherever he leads. He promises to love Jesus and feed his sheep no matter what. And this time, Peter follows through despite imprisonment, torture, and death. Peter is remembered as the greatest disciple because he turned his denial around and followed Jesus without fear after that affirmation of love.
Saying we love Jesus and want to follow him is easy. Living that out each day is much more difficult. But still, despite the times we have broken our promises and turned away from him, Jesus offers us a second chance as well. Each time we break a promise to him, he asks us, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.”