The Ultimate Undelete

I was in Memphis in August of 1985 desperately trying to finish my master’s degree. Why? Well, I had been told that I had until the end of the year to finish my research project, but then I got a call (while at camp at the end of July) telling me that I had until the end of August before the statute of limitations kicked in. Of course, I left grad school in 1980 with only that silly project to complete, so I guess it really wasn't the schools fault that I had put it off so long. Actually it the real reason was eschatological; Jesus could return at any moment, so why waste all that effort on a thesis?

As I worked late one night typing away on my paper, I somehow hit the wrong button and deleted the whole thing. Gone. I loaded up my backup diskette (remember 5 1/4 inch floppies?), it was unreadable. So there I was a week away from my deadline, and all I had was a blinking cursor and a cryptic error code. What saved the day and my degree was some computer nerd named Peter Norton and his “Norton Utilities Undelete 1.0.” My thesis and degree were saved. Thanks Peter.

Wouldn’t it be great if life came with an undelete program? How many times have you said something or done something and wished you could just take back?  What if you could hit a key and life would be restored to its pre-crash status?

  • Make the wrong choice after agonizing over a tough decision? No problem. Click undelete and make the right choice this time.
  • Say just the wrong thing at just the wrong time in the heat of the moment? Just use your undelete key, and this time you get to say just the right thing.
  • Disappoint someone you love? Disappoint God? Well, just boot up your Spiritual Undelete disk, and everything is restored to its original pre-crash state.

Well, there is no such button. You can’t un-ring a bell. You can't un-send an email (OK, Gmail does have an "unsend" button, but you only get a few seconds to use it). You can’t take back words already spoken. You can’t undo bad things, no matter how many good things you try to put in their place. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. We've all been there, haven't we?

That reminds me of Peter (Peter the apostle, not Peter Norton). One minute Peter was boldly proclaiming, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you" (Mark 14:31). The next minute he was alone, hearing himself say, "I don’t know this man" (Mark 14:71). Over  and over he heard the rooster crowing in his head. In fact, what Peter probably heard over and over were Jesus' words, "Whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven" (Matthew 10:33).  And Peter had just disowned Jesus in the most dramatic way possible. Three times. He would have given anything for an undelete key!

While Peter struggled with his failure, something was happening in another part of Jerusalem that would change everything forever. Some of the women went to Jesus’ tomb to finish the process of His burial, and what they found was the ultimate undelete key. An angel appeared, telling them that Jesus was alive! And the angel had a special message for Peter, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:7).

So why did the angel specifically mention Peter? Why not stop with just “Tell his disciples?” Was Peter mentioned by name because of all the disciples, Peter most needed to see the full implication of the resurrection? Peter was a failure. He denied Jesus and so Jesus would deny Him. It was as simple as that, right? Wrong. The empty tomb changed everything. Peter was about to come face to face with God’s undelete key. Because Jesus was raised from the dead, Peter had another chance.  And we call that second change "the gospel."

At some point, we all fail miserably. We deny in word or in deed that we know Jesus. Maybe our denial isn't quite as dramatic as was that of Peter.  Or maybe it is every bit as dramatic.  Maybe our crash and burn was just as public and final as was Peter's.  The question is will we, like Peter, accept His forgiveness and move on to greater service and discipleship? Will we live like we believe that the gospel brings broken lives back from the dead?  The gospel is the ultimate undelete.