There’s a famous character in the Bible called Peter, a disciple of Jesus and then a powerful leader in the early years of the church. But this is the account of how Jesus lifted him from the charred burnt out remains of a devastating betrayal. This is Embers. Peter had tremendous natural ability but it was undermined by his character flaws. He was the one who spoke the loudest when Jesus gathered his disciples for a meal as the flames of religious hatred where rising in Jerusalem. It would end with Jesus being nailed to a cross.

So, let me tell what happened to Peter during two separate encounters, one at night and one in the day. Both of them happened as he stood next to a fire. To set the scene, let’s drop in on that final meal that Jesus had with his disciples as he predicts Peter’s downfall. I have pleaded in prayer for you Peter, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

His objections were strong but his commitment to Jesus and the life he said he would live were about to collapse around him as the pressure of the unfolding events exposed his weakness. Peter couldn’t cope with the crucifixion of Jesus, it didn’t fit his plan about what was supposed to happen, how this whole thing should have played out. Let’s pick up the story again from the Bible

They arrested Jesus and Peter followed at a distance. The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!” But Peter said, “I don’t even know him!”

"After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”
“I’m not!” Peter replied. Someone else insisted, “You must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.” But Peter said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.” And while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

At that moment Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly is words flashed through Peter’s mind “Before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. The embers of a charcoal fire provide the backdrop as Peter washed his hands of Jesus in an almost unbelievable act of denial. Utterly devastating moments in the life story of a man who Jesus chose, trained and trusted.

One of those catastrophic end of the road moments when the pain of personal failure is completely overwhelming. For Peter, he probably wondered if he would ever be able to his friends in the face again. But it wasn’t the end for him, there was another fire that was coming. The promise of God that fills the pages of the Bible is the promise of a second chance. That’s what we find at the very centre of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, forgiveness and a fresh beginning.

Soon after Peter’s denial, Jesus went to the cross and then after three days God raised him from the dead. Then he appeared to his disciples on several occasions. On this occasion he’s back on the same place where he invited Peter to follow him three years earlier. The disciples are back fishing. Peter is lost in guilt and regret as he suddenly realises that Jesus has been raised from the dead and is standing on the shoreline. He dives into the water and swims to towards him ahead of the others. Let’s pick it up from the Bible.

"When they got to the shore, they found breakfast waiting for them, fish cooking over a charcoal fire. After breakfast Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me? “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. Jesus repeated the question: “do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep."

Jesus isn’t asking Peter to take over a sheep farm but to be the leader he was supposed to be. To move on from his failure and care for those that were about to be added to the church is huge numbers. Jesus is asking Peter to be to be a protector and a father. What a change in a week. At the first firepit he’s hiding in the shadows of night with the wrong crowd. But now he’s back with the right crowd around the charcoal embers of another firepit in the light of the morning by the shoreline.

Jesus comes back for Peter and gives him the second chance he so desperately needed. This time there would be no turning back. Maybe you’re between the shadows and the shoreline today. Maybe Jesus wants to meet with you as well. Peter went back to fishing because he couldn’t cope with what his life now looked like. To those who have made bad mistakes Jesus has an invitation. Not an invitation to jump through religious hoops but an invitation to breakfast.

Peter’s journey is actually the journey of all of us. A complex mix of success and failure. God has made a way for us to turn around and come home. He waits to welcome us, to dust us down, put us in family and fill us will his fire.

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