How easily resolution turns to failure. How easily the “best laid plans” come to nothing. How often the trouble—much as we’d like to locate it elsewhere—is within.
We are all sinners. We are all prone to be the victims of our weaknesses, and to make the situation worse through pride or stubbornness.
The Scriptures are full of portraits of people who, on first glance, are heroes, but on closer inspection turn out to be—all alike, and in our company—fallen. People like David and Moses, who killed to exalt themselves, people like Solomon who were poisoned by pride, people like Peter who were brought low by fear.
There’s only one figure in all of Scripture (and the whole of human history) who stands these tests and who cannot be faulted in any way. Jesus, the one who once stood at a riverside to be baptized along with sinners to stand in solidarity with them at the very point of their trouble, is the only one.
Every weakness that we allow to overtake us through lack of trust in God, every sin that we indulge due to a whole range of motivations, puts us firmly on the side of the fallen people of Scripture and history. We have no excuse for ourselves. We always stand in need of something we can’t provide for ourselves. All the resolution in the world, in our own strength, can never be the answer.
But if we try to avoid this judgment upon ourselves, afraid that we may then be unworthy of the attention of that one Saviour, Jesus, we are reminded of a gracious truth: restoration comes in him and it is the privilege and the right only of sinners. As the Puritan writer Richard Sibbes said, “Shall our sins discourage us (from approaching God’s throne), when he appears there only for sinners?” Jesus’ aim is the restoration, the redemption of us who are sinners, not those who can drum up a convincing case for their own goodness. “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
The great example of this in the gospels is the restoration of Peter. Peter who rebuked Jesus and said the cross was beneath him, Peter who was often too quick to speak, Peter who along with the other disciples deserted Jesus in the hour of his suffering and topped it off by his three denials of even knowing Jesus—this was the man Jesus singled out at the end of his earthly life for forgiveness, restoration, and a commission to serve him.
Yes, we constantly find ourselves standing with Peter on the failure side of the divide. But through Jesus’ death and resurrection we can also be sure that we are welcomed along with Peter to be restored, forgiven, and handed a fresh start.