[Peter] began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Only a few verses earlier in Mark 14, Jesus told his disciples that they would desert him (14:27). When Peter emphatically denied that he would do this, Jesus told him that “tonight — before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.” In response, Peter stated unequivocally, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” (14:31).
There’s no doubt that Peter truly believed he would never, ever deny Jesus. He and his fellow disciples were sure that they would die for Jesus rather than deny him. But, of course, before long all the disciples did what they felt to be impossible, and Peter most of all. Three times he denied that he knew Jesus. But then, the crowing of a rooster reminded Peter of what Jesus had said to him. Peter “broke down and wept,” devastated by what he had done to his Lord and overwhelmed by his shame (14:72) He had done that which, only hours earlier, had seemed to be the unthinkable.
Throughout my tenure as a pastor, I have known people who have done the unthinkable. Those who were absolutely certain that their marriages would last found themselves in the midst of divorce. Those who swore never to mistreat their children said or did things in anger that went far beyond the line of appropriateness. I know people who “borrowed” money from their workplace, neglecting to pay it back until they were caught. Or there were teenage girls who took a purity pledge, only to become pregnant before they were married. Other people have fallen into debilitating addictions, sometimes the very ones that haunted their parents. How many alcoholics, for example, swore never to drink too much, like their father or mother. Yet they ended up doing the unthinkable.
I don’t think the people I know are any worse than most Christians. Not everyone does the unthinkable, of course, thanks be to God. But many of us do. And most of us come close. We all end up doing things contrary to our conscience, contrary to our faith, things that we never imagined we’d do in our lives.
Sometimes when we do the unthinkable we are so caught up in shame that we can’t even bring ourselves to confess our sin to God. We just can’t say in words what we have done. So we allow a great divide to open up between us and God. Yet distance from God doesn’t assuage our guilt, and we become mired in shame.
If the biblical story ended with Mark 14, we might think that Peter went through the rest of his life a broken, defeated man. That would make sense, humanly speaking. But it isn’t what really happened. Because of what Jesus was about to endure on the cross, and because of what would happen to Jesus two days later, Peter was not stuck in his failure. The resurrected Jesus not only forgave Peter for his denial, but also raised him up to primary leadership in his church.
Thus, if you have done the unthinkable, don’t let this keep you from the Lord. Have confidence in his grace and mercy. Lay your sin before him, so that you might be fully and finally forgiven.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Have you ever done what you considered to be unthinkable?
Have you come close?
What would keep you from coming to Jesus if you did that which you could never imagine doing?
What would encourage you to come to him for forgiveness and restoration?
Gracious God, all of us sin against you. Many of us have done this in ways that were once unimaginable. We have done the unthinkable.
Sometimes, when we’re caught in our shame, we can’t even find the courage to come before you in confession. Help us, Lord! By your Spirit, draw us near to yourself. Reassure us concerning your mercy. Give us words to confess our sin to you so that we might be forgiven. Restore our confidence, not in ourselves, but in you.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for taking upon yourself my sin, even my unthinkable sin. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for calling me to serve you in spite of all I have done to dishonor you.
O Lord, help me to live in the freedom and joy of your forgiveness, turning away from sin as I turn to serve you. In your name I pray, Amen.