Jesus doesn’t abandon His disciples, even when they fail to follow Him. If we could just believe that, our lives wouldn’t be the same. The One who created us and gives us breath is overflowing with grace. He delights in giving us better than we deserve. If only we could see Him as He truly is. If only we could trust that He is a God of grace.
There's a particular scene in John 21 that helps me tremendously with this. Jesus served His disciples breakfast.
There was already much history between them at this point. When it had come down to the most crucial hours of following Jesus, the disciples failed miserably. They fled the scene when their master was arrested. But when it came to failure, Peter stood out among the rest. He explicitly denied Jesus three different times. It’s hard for us to appreciate just how deep Peter’s failure is here. He abandoned Jesus when it mattered most, and he knew it. When he realized what he had done, he came unglued. He ran off and wept bitterly. The messiah was then executed. All hope was shattered.
But beyond all expectation, Jesus comes back. After physically rising from the dead, He appears to His disciples. He initiates contact once again. He pursues them. He isn’t done with them yet. On one occasion, He has a life-changing conversation with Peter:
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19)
Jesus asks Peter three different times if he loves Him, mirroring the three times that Peter had denied Him.
It doesn’t get more personal than this. Instead of sweeping Peter’s failure under the rug like it doesn’t matter, Jesus deals with it head on. He refuses to leave him wallowing in his guilt and shame. Jesus doesn't abandon Peter. On the contrary, He gives him far better than he deserves. He restores him as one of His own. He invites him to follow Him once again, even giving him the responsibility to lead His people. Jesus gives Peter grace, and it transforms him.
Jesus doesn’t abandon His disciples.
His grace heals us again and again when we fail to follow Him. Wherever you’ve been, whatever you’ve done, Jesus has grace that’s strong enough to heal you. His inexhaustible grace is bigger than your guilt and shame. If you’ve been united to Him in His death and resurrection, there’s nothing dark enough that can tear you away from Him. He’s not done with you yet. He's still working to remake you into the person you are meant to be. He's committed to making you like Himself. He will not abandon you. Does all this sound too good to be true? Maybe God’s love for us in Jesus is stronger than we’ve ever dared to imagine.