BY ERIC BARGERHUFF:
But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you in Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you. (Mark 16:7, NIV, emphasis mine)
When I was a young lad growing up in Indiana, I was fascinated with the greatest piece of racing equipment known to man the Big Wheel. Yes, most of us kids in the neighborhood had Big Wheels, and we loved to pretend that we were A. J. Foyt or Mario Andretti. Out on our home driveways, we raced around strategically placed objects all with the goal of proving ourselves worthy of the Indianapolis 500.
The highlight of my Big Wheel career was being involved an open invitation Big Wheel race that was held one summer at the Circus Building in Peru, Indiana, our nearest town. It is here in this building where the town of Peru holds the annual amateur circus, an event that is worth an afternoon drive to go see even today. During this particular year, they were holding a competition for all future Indy car racers that were starting out young with their Big Wheels. I was a young boy out to prove my manhood, bound and determined to win that race. The course involved two laps around the arena, and at the sound of the gun I was thrown into the lead of the race with a great burst of speed. My heart raced as I pedaled with reckless abandon and completed the first lap hot on the trail of victory. Pedaling as fast as I could go, my wheels began to slip on the pavement and throw me out of control, launching me outside the cones, immediately disqualifying me from the race. I was crushed, devastated that I had lost the race that I dreamed of winning. Tragically, the option of running that race over again was never presented to me. To this day, I was disappointed for losing that race. Seem silly? Oh probably. But you must understand that for a little kid, winning the Big Wheel race would have been a major life accomplishment at age six. I just wish that back then I would have had a second chance.
I cant help but surmise that there are many of us who would like to go back and change some mistakes that we have made, to have a second chance. There may actually be some deep emotional and spiritual scars from mistakes in our past where we simply spun our tires out of control. Will God ever forgive me?, we ask. Our guilt and our shame before God prevent us from experiencing the richness of His blessings that come from a deep relationship with the God of grace. We cling to the idol of self-perfection, and forfeit the grace that could be ours. (Jonah 2:8)
If you can relate to this, youre not alone. There was a man named Peter in the Bible who swore up and down that he would never deny being with Jesus Christ. Even after Christ predicted he would, Peter vehemently claimed that he would remain true, even to the point of death. Jesus told him that before a rooster would crow twice (Mark 14:30), he would deny Christ three times. So when the time came after Jesus arrest for Peter to be questioned regarding his association with this Nazarene, he did exactly what he said he wouldnt do. He denied even knowing Jesus claiming, I dont know this man you are talking about (Mark 14:71). It was after those fateful words that the rooster then crowed for the second time and Peter himself ate crow (figuratively speaking). To make matters worse, Lukes account of this event says that it was just then that the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter (Luke 22:61), which must have been a heart wrenching moment. And Peter went out and wept bitterly over what he had done. The realization of the betrayal of his Savior caused him much grief. He was devastated over his own sin. And with Christ soon to die, Peter wasnt quite sure if he would get a second chance.
Fortunately for Peter, Christ was only dead for three days (the Jews counted Friday afternoon, Saturday, and Sunday morning as three days). And it was after these three days that the God of the Second Chance arose from the grave with power and might, conquering the power the devil possessed over death and the grave (Heb 2:14). On that very day that Christ was risen, the women who came to the tomb were in for a shock, and so was a man named Peter. For the angel at the tomb said to the women, He has risen! He is not here but go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you in Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you. (Mark 16:7, emphasis mine)
You see, the angel made an effort to point out Peter as one that should specifically be told of the Saviors resurrection. Why? No one may know for sure, but perhaps God remembered the anguish that his beloved friend was still in, and insisted that Peter know right away that he had a second chance. Jesus loved Peter, and in the same way, He loves you and me. That empty grave has given you and I a second chance.
Always remember that it is never too late to seek forgiveness, to confess your sin and be restored (1 John 1:8, 9). There is no sin too bad or too great that Gods sufficient and abundant grace cant cover. As the old hymn reminds us, His grace is greater than all our sin. For the God of the second chance is real, and alive today, ready to forgive. He didnt die in vain but sufficiently paid the penalty for our sin, guilt, and shame. And fortunately, God gives us, just like he did Peter, more than one or two chances. He is a God of never ending grace, who longs to see you restored and living at peace with Him. He longs for you to be free! (John 8:36) Peter understood this to be Gods great mercy, and in his mind he tied mercy and hope to the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. (1 Peter 1:3) How appropriate, for this is the very moment Peter felt Gods mercy and heard it spoken to him on the report that Christ had risen.
Unfortunately, not all of life can be lived over again so that mistakes can be remedied. I may never get to run that Big Wheel race again, but now Im more interested in another race the race of life that God has marked out for me (Heb 12:1). And with Christ-likeness as my goal and with forgiveness graciously given to me, it is promised to me that I will indeed finish the race (Phil. 1:6), and in the end I will be a winner. That prize is much better than the Big Wheel trophy, and its the one that really matters.
Dr. Bargerhuff holds a Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He teaches Systematic Theology at Trinity College of Florida and is the author of The Most Misused Verses in the Bible and Love That Rescues: God’s Fatherly Love in the Practice of Church Discipline.