“YOU, O Jehovah, are good and ready to forgive.” (Psalm 86:5) With those heartwarming words, the Bible assures us that Jehovah God is generous with his forgiveness. An incident in the life of the apostle Peter clearly shows that Jehovah forgives “in a large way.”—Isaiah 55:7.
Peter was among Jesus’ closest companions. Yet, on the last night of Jesus’ life on earth, Peter caved in to fear and committed a grievous sin. In a courtyard near the place where Jesus was being illegally tried, Peter publicly denied knowing Jesus—not once but three times. Following Peter’s third vehement denial, Jesus “turned and looked upon Peter.” (Luke 22:55-61) Can you imagine how Peter felt as Jesus’ gaze fell upon him? Recognizing the gravity of his sin, Peter “broke down and gave way to weeping.” (Mark 14:72) The repentant apostle might have wondered whether his threefold denial had put him beyond the reach of God’s forgiveness.
Following his resurrection, Jesus had a conversation with Peter that no doubt dispelled any doubts about Peter’s having been forgiven. Jesus uttered no harsh words, no condemnation. Instead, he asked Peter: “Do you love me?” Peter answered: “Yes, Lord, you know I have affection for you.” Jesus responded: “Feed my lambs.” Jesus repeated the question a second time, and Peter gave the same answer, perhaps more emphatically. Jesus said: “Shepherd my little sheep.” Then Jesus asked the same basic question a third time: “Do you have affection for me?” Now “Peter became grieved” and said: “Lord, you know all things; you are aware that I have affection for you.” Jesus answered: “Feed my little sheep.”—John 21:15-17.
Why did Jesus ask questions to which he already knew the answers? Jesus could read hearts, so he knew that Peter loved him. (Mark 2:8) By asking those questions, Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to reaffirm his love three times. Jesus’ words in response: “Feed my lambs. . . . Shepherd my little sheep. . . . Feed my little sheep,” reassured the repentant apostle that he was still trusted. After all, Jesus was commissioning Peter to help care for a most precious possession—Jesus’ dear sheeplike followers. (John 10:14, 15) Peter must surely have been relieved to know that he was still trustworthy in Jesus’ eyes!
Clearly, Jesus forgave his repentant apostle. Since Jesus perfectly reflects his Father’s qualities and ways, we can only conclude that Jehovah too forgave Peter. (John 5:19) Far from being reluctant to forgive, Jehovah is a merciful God who is “ready to forgive” a repentant sinner. Is that not a comforting thought?