The scene on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in John 21 is one of the most sacred scenes in the Bible. There Christ engaged Peter in a conversation in front of the others. Christ’s repeated questions affirmed and restored the fisherman’s confidence. Jesus helped heal Peter’s, broken heart. Peter could finally forgive himself for his failure. Who doesn’t need that today?
Jesus restored Peter’s faith and told him to take care of his flock three times. As they were walking down the shoreline, Peter saw John and asked, “Lord, what about him?” That was typical, Peter! Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22). Follow me, Peter! Don’t worry about John. That is our problem because we are so prone to make comparisons that are not helpful. Sometimes following Christ will be difficult, as Jesus warned Peter. Sometimes following Christ means we have to go against the current of public opinion.
Some Christians today are afraid to share their faith or speak out against evil for fear of suffering adverse consequences. The following story, told by Pastor Laurence White, tells of the guilt of Christians in Germany who regretted not doing more to stop the Nazi movement.
The SS Guards at the Mohabit City Prison were given a list of those who were not allowed to survive the downfall of Nazism because they knew too much. Albrick Halshoffer’s name was included on the list. That morning, seven or eight prisoners were taken out of their cells. They were told they were about to be released. Each of the prisoners was assigned an SS Guard and led out to the tear garden park in the city of Berlin. As they came to the middle of that park, out of sight from anyone else, each guard stepped up to the prisoner assigned to him and shot them in the back of the head. The bodies were abandoned in the snow and mud.
Later Albrick’s brother heard rumors of what had happened, and he hurried into the park to search for his brother’s body. He found it there with a blood-stained sheet of paper clutched in his hand. Written on that piece of paper was a poem Halshoffer had composed just a few hours before his execution. It was entitled “I am guilty.” “The burden of my guilt,” the condemned man wrote, “before the law weighs light upon my shoulders, to plot and conspire was my duty to the people. I would have been a criminal had I not. I am guilty, although not in the way you think. I should have done my duty sooner. I was wrong; I should have called the evil sooner by its name. I hesitated to condemn for far too long. I now accuse myself within my own heart. I have betrayed my conscience for far too long. I have deceived myself and my fellow man. I knew the course of evil from its start. My warning was not loud enough or clear enough. Today as I die, I know what I am guilty of.