The flight was kind of nice, until the landing. A dull pain shot through my shoulder followed by the ricocheting of my helmet on the ground. I opened my eyes and saw a swarm of cleats and jerseys darting across the grass. Before long, an orchestra of cracks and grunts came from downfield. A few seconds later, the whistle blew, and we returned to the sidelines. Jogging back, the collective grimace of our teammates greeted us from the sidelines. Our drive was a failure. And it set the tone for the rest of the evening.
My first high school football game was not a good experience. Play after play, I hustled about the field nervous and confused, spending a large portion of my time on the ground. Afterward, I stood under the goal post reflecting on my performance and feeling rather worthless.
Perhaps you’ve never played a football game, but I’m willing to bet you’ve experienced times when you felt you’d missed the mark. You fell short of some standard. No matter how hard you tried, it never seemed to be enough. Sadly, often those feelings of failure turn quickly into sentiments of worthlessness. A nagging thought in our heads gives rise to an inner turmoil.
Jesus was aware that his followers fail. In fact, he planned for it: “Indeed, an hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave me alone” (John 16:32a). As Jesus neared the end of his life, he warned the disciples of their coming failure. Rather than stand with him at his darkest hour, Jesus’ closest friends would abandon him. Yet despite knowing they would fail him, Jesus offered these words of comfort: “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33). Jesus did not promise his disciples an easy life. What he did promise them was victory over sin despite their failure.
But where does peace come into this picture? Why would Jesus revealing to the disciples that not only would they fail him, but that he would win his victory over sin without them bring them peace? The peace Jesus offered was not the promise that they would never fail but the promise that he would win the victory on their behalf despite their failure. Like the peace of a wounded soldier hearing the trumpet of victory. The victory was not theirs to claim. But it was victory all the same.
Jesus’ words brought peace to the disciples because he revealed to them that his love and conquest over sin on their behalf was not dependent on their achievements. What Jesus spoke to the disciples that day holds true for you and me as well. The love of our Savior is not contingent on how often or how well we perform. The forgiveness of our sins is not contingent on our degree of perfection. Jesus’ words act as earplugs that cancel out the noise of the inner voice deriding us for missing the mark. Jesus came to save and love people who fail. That includes the disciples. And that includes us as well.