Chapel story about Peter is meant to rock your boat
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Garrett Ohrenberg
GCU News Bureau
“You’re not good enough.”
“What you did is unforgivable.”
Ever hear those words? Pretty devastating, right? Especially if you’re saying them to yourself.
After Jodi Hickerson of Mission Church in Ventura, Calif., ran through a litany of shortcomings and sins, big and small, at the start of her Chapel talk Monday, she asked for a show of hands: Who can identify with one of those mistakes?
Not surprisingly, every hand shot up in Grand Canyon University Arena.
“What a bunch of losers,” she joked.
She already had made her point.
“Anyone else need a little redemption from failure?” she asked. “Because we all do, right?”
And then Hickerson showed what that redemption looks like as she preached at her “favorite place ever to teach” – her daughter is a GCU student.
“We’ve all messed up. We’ve all fallen short. We’ve all been in somewhat of the same boat. We’ve experienced a degree of failure,” she said. “And some we can look back on and laugh – we can talk about those kinds of failures and laugh them off.
“Others just keep messing with us. They keep us up. They rob us of our peace. They kind of steal our confidence and our joy, and we think that maybe this is the new way it is because we don’t know if there’s a way to recover from the way we failed.”
As usual, the Bible shows the way to recover. Hickerson told, in exacting detail and with her distinctive, down-to-earth speaking style, the story of Peter, the “rock” upon whom Jesus built His church.
“Long before Dwayne Johnson,” she said, referring to the hulky actor known as “The Rock.”
Peter messed up. Oh, did he ever. He denied even knowing Jesus three times as Christ was being sentenced to death. Jesus had predicted it just hours earlier in Mark 14:27-31:
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today — yes, tonight —before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown Me three times.”
But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with You, I will never disown You.” And all the others said the same.
Later in that chapter, in verses 70-72, it proves true. Peter already had twice denied knowing Jesus; the third time, he got nasty about it:
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown Me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Hickerson said she has studied this thoroughly and noted that the gospel of Mark is a first-person account directly from Peter.
“He was saying things about Jesus, cursing Jesus, in a way that nobody would think that he could be one of His followers because one of His followers would never talk about Jesus that way,” she said.
She switched the scene to the Sea of Tiberias, where Peter and his fellow fishermen again were plying their trade after Jesus had been crucified, and they believed their time with Him was over.
“The boat itself is stable, but Peter is sinking. He’s drowning in a sea of regret,” she said. “He’s replaying what he did, what he said over and over, like we do sometimes, like, ‘How could I do that?’”
Then she put it in terms that the students in attendance could understand:
“He just feels so ashamed and so worthless and so embarrassed. If he could only do it over …” she said, her voice almost cracking with emotion. “You ever been there? You ever wonder if there’s a way to resurface, if there’s a way to rise above it, to rise above our remorse, our guilt, our shame? You ever wonder if there’s any hope?
“And the answer is, yes. It’s what I came to tell you this morning, because we have a God who specializes in flipping the scripts from failure to redemption. We have a God who, get this, can take the messiest waste of our life – right, all that – and turn it into the most fertile soil, to grow something brand new and something beautiful, and this was the experience of Peter.”
Hickerson listed three takeaways from this story:
First, Peter was wrecked by failure … and he owned it.
“The once proud rock was, like, reduced to rubble,” she said. “And I love that about Peter, that he just took ownership, he was truly repentant, he went out, he wept bitterly.
“You ever been not broken over your sin, over your stuff, over your failures, your rebellion from running from God? Not just upset like that you got caught – I’ve been there. Not just mad that you’ve got to deal with the consequences. But genuinely humbled and remorseful before God.”
James 4:10 tells us what will happen if we show that remorse:
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.
“We have a God that doesn’t want us to stay down when we fall down,” Hickerson said.
The second takeaway is that Peter was wrecked by humiliation … but stayed in the group.
“It is so important for us to surround ourselves with people who will help us get back up, who know what it’s like to have fallen, and we help them get back up,” she said. “… Don’t ever let failure isolate you.”
Ecclesiastes 4:10 reads:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Hickerson then recounted, in grand detail, the story in John 21:7-12, of how Peter and the group spotted Jesus on the shore, and Peter inexplicably leaped out of the boat and started swimming even though the boat probably would have gotten there faster.
That illuminated her third takeaway: Peter was wrecked by shame … but still swam to Jesus. And then Jesus, three times again, asked Peter if he loved Him.
“Shame has a powerful enemy, and that is the grace of God,” Hickerson said. “… Shame is the language of our accuser, but grace is the language of Jesus, so, please, swim to Him, run to Him, get to Him with whatever you’ve got, and He’s going to take you just as He finds you. He’s going to begin to change your life.”
Hickerson closed with something she wrote in her early 20s, about how she wanted to be “in” but “felt aggravated, frustrated, unappreciated, slated as someone who was underrated, unimportant, unknown, unseen, average, mediocre, routine, beneath, below, beyond a chance, inconsequential, insignificant.”
But the Bible is filled with the stories of people Jesus rescued from their wayward ways.
“Suddenly, undeniably, they were in,” Hickerson said.
And that’s exactly what happened to her:
“Since the day I met with Him, He took all that I had been, all my fear, my shame, my sin, and changed my life by letting me in. By the grace of God I did it, and by the grace of God, you can get in, too.”
● Chapel replay.
● Next Monday’s speaker: Sean Moore, Faith Christian Center