[This post is part of the Discipleship in Youth Ministry series.] Jesus spent three years with His disciples. Three intensive years in which He not only taught them what they needed to know, but also modeled what a relationship with God should look like. He showed them what loving God above all and loving your neighbor like yourself meant in day-to-day life. He taught them to pray, impressed the importance of knowing God’s Word, showed them how to do ministry, taught them to heal people. I think it’s safe to say the disciples had the single most perfect discipleship course in history, taught by the Master himself.
Peter wasn’t only one of the twelve disciples, he was one of the three disciples that Jesus mentored even more intensively. Peter was in all likelihood the oldest of the disciples, though still a young man, but Jesus basically groomed him to lead the church after He’d be gone. Peter didn’t just get a discipleship course, he got one in leadership as well.
Yet after all the time, energy and effort Jesus invested in Him, when the time came to step up, Peter denied he ever knew Jesus.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how Jesus felt about Peter’s betrayal. He knew it was coming, He had even told Peter it was coming. And Peter being Peter had passionately denied the possibility of course. But Peter’s denial of even knowing Him, must have hurt Jesus deeply.
I know that if I had been betrayed like that, I would have been furious, disappointed, frustrated to the point of giving up. Seriously, I invest three years in this guy, basically appointing him my successor and he does something like that? What’s the use of investing in discipleship, in mentoring if three years of investment end in betrayal?
If I had been Jesus, I would have given up on Peter, maybe even on all the disciples.
But Jesus didn’t. He not only didn’t give up on Peter, He completely redeemed him and affirmed him. And what was Peter’s reaction? He wanted to know what would happen to John…Peter has just experienced God’s grace and he reacts by doing something very human: asking about someone else. And this is the guy that’s supposed to lead the church?
Jesus never lost faith in Peter. He gave him a second, a third and even a fourth chance.
When we disciple young people, we can get very discouraged because all our time and efforts don’t seem to make a difference. We spend so much time with them, teaching them about Jesus, showing them the way, only to find out they got drunk at a party or messed up with their girlfriend. We pour our life into them, and they betray us in whatever way. It makes us want to quit altogether.
Don’t give up. Discipleship takes time, a lifetime even. After three years of the best discipleship course ever, Peter still did some pretty dumb stuff. And Jesus loved him nonetheless and didn’t give up on him.
Don’t give up, keep loving your students and keep investing in discipling them. In the end, they may end up leading the church, doing bigger and better things than you ever thought possible. Because our God is an awesome God who uses people we would have given up on a long time ago.
Have you ever felt betrayed by a student like that? How do you keep from giving up?