Have you ever felt so guilty for what you have done that you feel worthless, hopeless, useless? Have you ever felt you are a lost cause or a hopeless case? Do you ever feel alone in your guilt? Jesus' disciples felt this way following their denial, disowning, and desertion of Jesus. But in their guilt, he reached out to them in grace.
Jesus explained to his disciples that in two days he would be arrested and crucified. He told them they would all fall away from him following his arrest, and their denying, disowning, and deserting him. Yet, they all said they would never deny, disown, or desert him.
Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me..." Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.
The disciples were sincere and serious about their commitment to following Jesus...even to death if necessary. They could not picture themselves ever denying, disowning, or deserting Jesus. However, by night's end, they had done just that. They had denied, disowned, and deserted Jesus. Matthew record's Peter's brokenness over this.
And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Peter, and the rest of the disciples, felt much guilt over what they had done...deserting the One who dearly loved them and whom they dearly loved.
In a matter of hours, they had gone from being self-confident and self-righteous to total brokenness. In their brokenness, they were humbled. And it was in this humbled brokenness that Jesus demonstrated grace to them.
Up until this point, Jesus was not able to demonstrate grace to them because they were very arrogant. The continually compared themselves to each other by arguing over who was the greatest among them and who would sit at Jesus' side when he ushered in his kingdom.
The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble but resists the proud.
Before this brokenness, the disciples were very proud. They were self-focused, self-reliant, self-righteous, and self-confident. They prided themselves on their commitment to Jesus...confident they were better than the rest. Peter himself even placed himself above the other disciples saying he was more committed and serious about following Jesus than the other eleven.
Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.
Only broken people are in a position to receive grace. The prideful never are. The prideful like to boast about how good they are , how committed they are. They like to place themselves above others by criticizing and condemning them. The prideful like to brag on their spirituality and commitment while at the same time putting others down. They do not see their desperate need for grace. This is where the disciples were.
Through this failure of the disciples, they were broken of their pride and began to sense how desperate they were for grace. No longer did they pride themselves on their commitment and spirituality. They were now in a position to receive grace.
Following the disciples disowning, desertion, and denial of Jesus, they went back to fishing. They had been fishing all night and into the morning, having caught nothing. A man from the shore, whom was Jesus, asked them if they had caught anything. "Nothing", they replied. Jesus, whom they did not recognize, yet, told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat and they would catch fish. When they did this, they were unable to haul in the fish because of the abundance of large fish they caught, 153 to be exact.
Immediately, following this large catch, the disciples recognized it was Jesus at the shore. Peter bolted out of the boat, swimming quickly to Jesus. Once arriving on shore, along with the other disciples who were following Peter in the boat, they saw Jesus had cooked them breakfast. Along with the breakfast he had waiting on them, he cooked up more of the fish the disciples had caught and said to them, "Come and have breakfast."
Isn't that just what grace would do? Grace cooks breakfast for the guilty. Grace reaches out and extends a hand of forgiveness to the guilty. Grace spreads its arms and takes nails in its hands for the guilty. Grace, with those same hands, cooks a simple breakfast for those who are hungry for food and hungry for forgiveness.
I can see Jesus gathering up coals, preparing the fish, excited to extend grace to his disciples. He knew how they were feeling...down on themselves because of their desertion, denial, and disowning of him. Surely, they said over and over to themselves, "How could we do that? Why did we do that? Is Jesus mad at us? Angry at us? Upset at us? Can we ever change? We are worthless. We are useless. Lost causes!
When they experienced this simple act of grace, Jesus cooking them breakfast, they knew they were loved and forgiven. They knew Jesus was not mad or angry with them. They knew, because of grace, they could change.
I love how Jesus didn't react to his disciples. He didn't lecture them. He didn't tell them he never wanted to see them again. He didn't say to them they were a lost cause or a hopeless case. Because of grace, there are no lost causes or hopeless cases. He didn't try to make them feel bad about what they had done. They already felt bad enough. They were mad at themselves. They felt worthless, useless, and hopeless. Instead of reacting in frustration toward his disciples, he acted in grace. After breakfast, he spent time with them, talked with them, and encouraged them. He told them their lives still mattered. They had a purpose. According to Jesus, their failures were not final.
We know how the disciples felt. We have made promises to God, ourselves, and others that we would do something. We were sincere when we made those promises. We were confident we would follow through. We were sure God and others could depend on us. Then something we wrong. We failed to follow through on our promises. We let God down, ourselves down, and the people we made promises to down. Consequently, guilt and shame set in. We became mad at ourselves. We felt God and others were mad at us, too. We felt worthless, useless, and hopeless. We felt our failures had ruined our lives.
So what did we do to relieve the guilt and shame? We did we do with these feelings of worthlessness, uselessness, and hopelessness?
For many of us, we did what the disciples did. We go back to what is familiar. For the disciples, it was fishing. For you, it was something else. We go back to what was comforting, easy, and familiar. Yet, the guilt and shame never leaves. It is always there, lurking in the back of our minds and in the shadows of our hearts. We tell ourselves, How could I do that? What is wrong with me? Is God mad at me? Can I ever change? I am worthless. I am useless. I am a hopeless case. I am a lost cause.
Then, unexpectedly, grace comes...forgiveness comes...love comes...Jesus comes. And in some small way, he demonstrates his grace to us. For his disciples, his demonstration of grace was simply cooking them breakfast. For us, his grace comes through a friend who stays by our side, a parent who never gives up on us, or someone who does something kind for us. And, in this act of grace, our shame and guilt is removed. Grace has replaced our shame and guilt with love and forgiveness. Hope is reborn. Through this simple act of grace, we begin to realize we are not worthless, useless, or hopeless. Through grace we realize we are valuable, we are loved, we are forgiven, and our lives matter.
Maybe there are people in your life who have let you down. Promises have not been kept. Pain has come. Maybe the people who let you down are your spouse, child, mother, father, or friend. You're wondering what you should do. Do what Jesus did, cook them breakfast.
More than likely, they are feeling a tremendous amount of guilt and shame. They are feeling unloved by you and God. They especially have no love for themselves. They feel hopeless. They feel down. They feel discouraged. They feel alone. They feel worthless and useless. So what do you do? Cook them breakfast.
Many times when people let us down, we want to make them pay for what they did. We want them to hurt as we have hurt. We want them to feel pain as we have felt pain. We want them to be punished. So what do we do? We get angry at them. We stay angry at them. We give them the cold shoulder, trying to make them feel worse about what they have done. We believe punishing them through our anger toward them and ignoring them will change them. Yet, the very opposite happens. Through our anger and shunning of them, they fall deeper into their guilt and shame. This guilt and shame begins to push them further and further down and further and further away. They feel more alone. They feel more isolated. The feel more hopeless and useless. Yet, one simple act of grace from you to them can unlock the prison doors of their guilt and shame and release them into the freedom of forgiveness and hope.
Isn't that what Jesus did for the disciples? Rather than getting angry at the disciples, rather than making them pay for what they did, rather than punishing them by pushing them away, he came to them in grace and cooked them breakfast. This one small act of grace by Jesus toward his disciples forever changed their lives. It opened the prison doors of their guilt and shame and released them into the freedom of forgiveness and hope. Through this act of grace by Jesus, the disciples realized they were valuable, loved, and that their lives mattered.
Isn't that what Jesus has done for us? He has come to us in our guilt and shame and demonstrated his grace through the cross by taking all our guilt upon himself making us totally innocent in his sight. Through his grace, we have been released from our own prison of guilt and shame into the freedom of forgiveness and hope. As a result, our lives have been forever changed.
Now, we get to do the same thing for those who are living in their self-imposed prison of guilt and shame because of broken promises they have made to us. We have the privilege of demonstrating to them the same grace Jesus demonstrated to his disciples and to us. By demonstrating grace to them, we can unlock their prison doors of guilt and shame and release them into the freedom and hope that forgiveness brings.
Some may think: If I demonstrate grace to them they may not learn their lesson, they may take advantage of this grace and just continue to do wrong. They may not feel as bad as they should feel.They may take this grace as a sign of weakness on my part. The truth is, grace has just the opposite effect. Grace fills the empty places within people's hearts who are feeling shame, guilt, alone, and hopeless. Grace encourages them in their discouragement, strengthening and changing their lives.
May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you with every good deed and word.
2 Thessalonians 2:16
It is good for your hearts to be strengthened by grace...
By demonstrating grace to his disciples through cooking a simple breakfast for them, or some other simple act of grace, their lives began to be strengthened and changed.
Maybe there is someone in your life who has brought great pain into your heart. A, daughter, son, husband, wife, mom, dad, or friend. You are angry with this person. You are making this person pay for what he or she did to you. You have pushed this person away. You refuse to talk to this person, or when you do, you seek to hurt him or her with your words. Maybe it is time to forgive. Maybe it is time to do something kind for this person, a simple act of grace. Maybe it is time to cook them breakfast.
Find something practical you can do for this person. Find a small act of grace, or kindness, you can do for the one who has hurt you and is feeling guilty. This act of grace, or small act of kindness to the one who has hurt you, will not only release the one your re demonstrating grace to from his or her own guilt and shame, but also release you from the bitterness and anger you are feeling.
So who are they? Who are the people who have broken their promises to you and are now living in their own prisons of guilt and shame? Cook them some breakfast, because grace cooks breakfast for the guilty.