Second Chance. Last Chance.

Second Chance, Last Chance

May 01, 2022*

By Pastor John Partridge

John 21:1-19                         Acts 9:1-20                               Revelation 5:11-14

If you’ve ever followed the results of a sports tournament, and even if it was a chess tournament, you will remember that there are different structures for those competitions.   In some, like the NFL championship, once the post-season starts, losing one game removes you from the competition entirely.  But in others, like some team sports in the Olympics, losing just moves you to a second bracket and, although winning the gold medal is out of the question, winning that second bracket could still mean that your team could win bronze and appear on the medal podium.

A few years ago, after I had preached another message about second chances, my friend John Cassidy gave me what he had labelled as the “second chance flyswatter.”  It lives up to its name because John melted a big hole in the middle of it.

Sometimes there are second chances.

As the followers of Jesus, we often say that we worship the God of second chances, and that we are a people of second chances.  None of us here are perfect and all of us are here because, through his grace, and through the suffering of his son, Jesus Christ, God has given all of us a second, third, or fourth chance.  And often, we’ve been given a lot more chances than that.

But how many chances do we get?  Is there a point when our luck, and God’s grace, will run out?

Before we answer that, let’s go back to the story of Easter and remember the events of John 21:1-19 where it says…

21:1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So, they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

In this reading, we witness Jesus as he appears, for the third time, to the disciples.  Even though they had seen Jesus after his resurrection, and even though the disciples were still spending time together, Peter isn’t sure what he’s going to do with his life and decides that he’s going back to work, back to his boat, and bring in some money to pay the bills.  But Jesus has other plans.  Even though Peter denied Jesus three times, heard the rooster crow, and felt like an utter failure, Jesus still intends to use him.  On a beach in Galilee, Jesus meets the disciples, performs a miracle, forgives Peter, invites him back into ministry, and launches him, and the other disciples out into the world… again.  Just because Jesus died and rose again, and just because Jesus is no longer physically walking with then twenty-four each day, doesn’t mean that their ministry is over.  It’s a second chance.  And it’s a huge second chance for Peter, who felt like a failure, had given up hope, and was ready to go back to his old life and disappear. 

Jesus still has work for them to do.

But the story is bigger than that.  In Acts 9:1-20, we hear the story of Saul, an enforcer for the Pharisees who was hunting down Christians for what he, and the chief priests of Israel, saw as believing, and preaching, false doctrines.

9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So, they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.

Saul wasn’t Peter.  Saul didn’t deny Jesus and feel like a failure.  Saul was the enemy of Jesus and everything that he stood for.  Saul held the coats of the men who stoned Jesus’ follower Stephen to death.  Saul believed that any and all teachings about Jesus were false doctrines and he was hunting down, arresting, and dragging the Jewish followers of Jesus back to Jerusalem for trial.  He wasn’t just a paper tiger, he was a real, and serious, threat and even the leaders of the new Jesus movement were afraid of him. 

But God doesn’t just stop Saul.  God doesn’t just protect his followers from Saul.  God gives Saul a second chance.  Jesus reveals himself, shows him the truth, changes Saul’s heart, and transforms him into one of the most potent preachers, teachers, and influencers of all time.

But is there an end to God’s patience?  

Will there be an end to the opportunity for second chances?

We find the answers to those questions in Revelation 5:11-14 and also discover what it means for each one of us.

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
    to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
    and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
    be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!”

14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

As I read these words, the critical bit that stood out for me was “13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lambbe praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!””

Every human being that has ever lived, plus every rabbit, worm, eagle, mountain lion, and every other animal that lives above, on, or under the earth, bows down, worships Jesus, gives praise to him, and recognizes that he will rule forever.  And the elders of the church, and what might just be the four most powerful creatures in all of creation, bow down and say, “Amen” which means, literally, “I agree.”

This is the end.  This is where the first creation ends, and judgement begins.  This is the point at which there are no more second chances.  Up until this moment there might have been a chance for a second chance.  But afterwards, there will be only judgement.

Three times, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.  But Jesus gave him a second chance.

Paul had declared himself an enemy of Jesus and had dedicated his life to stamping out Jesus’ teaching as well as the followers of Jesus.  But Jesus gave him a second chance.

There is nothing that you have done, will do, or could do, that would make you ineligible for a second (or a three hundred and forty second) chance in this lifetime.  But once this lifetime ends, that door closes.  Every one of us has a limited time to choose Jesus.  And, like Peter, those of us who have chosen Jesus have work to do.  Like Peter, and like Paul, once we have accepted Jesus, we become a part of his ministry to reach the lost and to save the world.

One day, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord.  But our mission is do the best that we can, to share the good news so that as many of our friends, family, and the people around us are on the right side of God’s judgement.  The Good News of Jesus Christ can’t be kept a secret.

We have work to do.


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*You have been reading a message presented at Christ United Methodist Church on the date noted at the top of the first page.  Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Christ UMC in Alliance, Ohio.  Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you.  Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry or any of our other projects may be sent to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio 44601.  These messages are available to any interested persons regardless of membership.  You may subscribe to these messages, in print or electronic formats, by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at secretary@CUMCAlliance.org.  These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.com .  All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.