This week we will look at 2 powerful examples of God's mercy as found in the Bible. These real-life stories showcase a God who does not remain "in the clouds," but is active in the lives of His people.
1. Peter the Denier - Peter was a faithful follower of Jesus throughout his life. Ever since Jesus called him out to be a "fisher of men," Peter followed Jesus wherever He went. Jesus recognized his devout faith and even went so far as to change his name from "Simon" to "Peter" and to establish the entire Church on his leadership. However, when it came to following Jesus unto death, Peter denied Him. Not once. Not twice. Three times. As we read in the Gospel of Mark, Peter denies that he even knows Jesus saying, "I know not this man of whom you speak" (Mark 14:71).
Shortly thereafter the cock crows and we read how "the Lord turning looked on Peter" (Luke 22:61). Seeing Jesus' face Peter weeps bitterly and recognizes his sin.
After Jesus' death and resurrection, Peter's repentance is tested and Jesus extends His mercy to him by asking Peter three times, "Do you love me?" Peter responds affirmatively and Jesus asks him to "feed my lambs" (John 21:15).
While Peter was the "prince of the apostles," he was not perfect. He needed God's mercy and for Jesus to pursue him in order to become the "rock" of the Church. Even though he denied Jesus in His hour of greatest need, God did not abandon him, but sought him out.
2. Saul the Persecutor - Shortly after Christ ascends into Heaven we already see Christians being persecuted. One of the primary sources of persecution was Saul, a devout Pharisee who made it his mission to root out the followers of Jesus. We read in the book of Acts that Saul, "persecuted [Christians] unto death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women" (Acts 22:4). Saul truly believed that he was serving God by capturing believers and destroying the Christian religion.
God had other plans for Saul and showed His mercy by pursuing the zealous Pharisee. While Saul was on his way to Damascus for another round of arrests, God revealed Himself to Saul in a vision of light and spoke to him saying, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?...I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting." (Acts 22:7). Saul was struck blind and continued on to Damascus, but repented of his sins. He finally realized the error of his ways and then devoted himself entirely to the Gospel and following Jesus of Nazareth.
Saul went from one of the greatest enemies of the Church to become one of the greatest saints.
What does all of this mean for us?
It is very simple. No matter how much we stray from God, He will never cease pursuing us. Even if we persecute the Church or deny Him before others, God will not stop trying to bring us back.
However, the key in these two stories is that while they both committed grave sins, they allowed God to bring them back.
Will we allow God to pursue us and let Him into our lives?