If there is a tinge of hope for the disciple who has grievously sinned, Jesus will trust him (us) for another chance, several chances. I have long appreciated the fact that Peter was wrong when he seemed to think that seven times was enough to forgive a brother. Well, I'm that brother many times over - I'm sure I've gone over that seventy times seven, and his grace keeps overwhelming me.
Jesus takes no negative action when humiliated by one of his disciples who crucifies him afresh today -- if he hasn't yet hardened his heart. Jesus words for those who treat him ugly in today's world are the same as those who crucified him the first time: "Father forgive them." Yes, he added, "for they know not what they do!" But what about us who have let him down knowing we were wrong at the time?
Peter, who grew into a great Christian, did that very thing the night Jesus was betrayed. He denied to Jesus' enemies that he even knew the man -- and when they persisted he was a disciple, to convince them, he tagged a curse word to his denial. That should convince them, for no disciple of Jesus would deny him with a curse. But this man did. To make the situation more pitiful, Jesus had told the cocky Peter in the upper room that before the rooster crowed twice he would deny him thrice. And at that third crowing, when Peter let out that course, strong denial, Jesus caught his eye. Volumes were in that glance. But it was pity in Jesus face, not vengeance. I'll venture to say that Peter never, ever forgot that look. I think I have seen that same look in my conscience a few times and I haven't forgotten it. Have you had that experience? And it had powerful effect upon Peter's life because he wept bitterly some where off in a corner someplace to himself. There's hope though, when we can do the same thing over our sins no matter how bad.
Did Jesus say what we might have said if such a sin happened against us? I can hear us saying this, "That's it man, I've had it with you!" Jesus might have said, "I have had to call you Satan once and now you remind me of him again." But no, never did he show any resentment for that terrible sin -- something any of us might do in a similar manner today.
Quite the opposite for after his death he appeared to Peter and not only gave him another chance, he seemed to show greater trust in Peter than ever before. He just said to him: "If you love me, feed my sheep." This was a signal of trust. And so it is to all of us sinners. If there is a tinge of faith and hope left in our soul after sinning... pass the test of trust, rise and feed his sheep... serve Jesus by contributing to the needs of other sheep.
That's the test for true discipleship. No matter how much churchiness is involved, if it falls short of serving our brother and sisters, it is a disgrace to the truth. Any chest patting, self centered Jesus-worship that continually passes by Lazarus lying at our gate is a farce - a "put on" piousness. And regardless of the times "Lord, Lord" is repeated, if one practices a smooth religion, immunized to the point of contentment in the midst of the needs of God's family, he earns the fatal rebuke of our Lord: "Depart from me, I know you not."