RESURRECTION RAYS SHINING ON DAYS OF DENIAL
May 3, 2010 4th Sunday of Easter
1Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3“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.
4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6He 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.
7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
What happens next is utterly fascinating…but before we get to that, let me ask you: “What sit-down restaurant are you most looking forward to visiting once these pandemic restrictions are lifted?
Well, my favorite meal out is breakfast…and the one place I have dreams about, the one place I salivate over the most, is Waffle House! I can’t wait to dig my fork into a piping hot waffle swimming in butter and syrup, with greasy bacon and scrambled eggs and a steaming bowl of grits on the side! Lord, help me! I may have to have two waffles!
It would be almost as enjoyable as a meal Peter and the disciples experience with the risen Jesus along the shoreline of Galilee!
Yes, as Peter and his buddies wade hurriedly ashore with that miraculous catch of fish, they find Jesus tending a charcoal fire on the beach. Now that’s interesting—the last time such a fire is mentioned in John’s gospel, Peter is warming his hands over one as he denies knowing Jesus.
Jesus is cooking breakfast—the smell of smoke and frying fish is wafting through the cool morning air. Jesus invites his friends to sit down. And he shares a bodacious breakfast with them. What a peaceful, joyful reunion it is! Their Lord is indeed alive and with them!
Next, though, comes a very poignant scene: When they finish eating, Jesus touches Peter on the shoulder and asks for a words with him. They go walking down the sandy shoreline a ways. Out of the blue, Jesus questions, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter says to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” And Jesus says to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Without missing a beat, Jesus asks again if Peter loves him, and after Peter says that he does love him, Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.”
Then a third time, as though the question had not been asked, Jesus inquires about Peter’s love. Peter is hurt by this persistent questioning, and he blurts out, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus commands him once again, “Feed my sheep.”
Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. What is Jesus driving home in this dialogue with Simon Peter?
Jesus is giving Peter the opportunity to cancel out the three cowardly denials he made during Holy Week. Although Peter had insisted vehemently three times that he was not a disciple of Jesus, now he affirms three times his devotion to his Lord. Each question and each answer cancels out one of Peter’s shameful denials.
Yes, the resurrection rays of Christ shine upon the shame of denial. Peter is forgiven. His hope for the future is restored because he no longer is defined by the sins of his past. Jesus has wiped he slate clean. A new beginning is offered.
Do we deny Jesus? Christ said to us, “Whatever you did or did not do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it unto me.”
Yes, I have neglected to care for my brothers and sisters. There are many times I’ve stood in Peter’s sandals– self-absorbed, navel-gazing, worshiping the unholy trinity of me, myself and I. And just as I have denied the needs of my brothers and sisters, I have denied Jesus. I certainly stand in need of my Lord’s forgiveness and restoration as Peter did along that Galilean shoreline on that peaceful morning long ago.
An old friend of mine, Don Cullen, is the owner of Classic Auto Body in Waynesboro. He’s my go-to guy whenever I or someone in my family has a fender-bender, and we’ve pretty much footed his son’s college education over the years.
Don’s real passion, though, is restoring vintage automobiles. His work is amazing. For instance, he recently sold a 1962 red Corvette he spent years working on–replacing worn parts, overhauling the motor, detailing the interior, meticulously repairing, sanding and repainting the exterior. That broken down, rusted-out sports car was literally given new life and purpose–you talk about one sweet machine!
In the same manner, Jesus restores Peter and us to new life and purpose when we allow his to strip away the rust of sin, opening our hearts to receive his forgiveness.
But to fully discover Christ-given life in all of its abundance, there is one more step. Yes, don’t deny Jesus, but do
Yes, Jesus says, “Whoever would be my disciples must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me!”
We are freed from sin so that we will be free to serve. We take up our cross- we choose to willingly involve ourselves in the tending to the needs of our neighbors. If we truly love the Lord who gives us forgiveness, we will feed his lambs, tend his sheep, feed his sheep.
There are vulnerable persons all around us right now. People who are struggling in a myriad of ways. People who need a word of faith and encouragement to uphold them. They are the sheep of our pasture. And just as Peter was commanded to care for the flock entrusted to him, so Christ gives us our flock to tend to as well.
Three-year old Mabel from Prior Lake, MN has known nothing but cancer and grueling treatments for most of her short life. She completed the final treatment last week. Her family had planned to have a huge party to celebrate her remission, but COVID-19 nixed those plans.
However, her community of Prior Lake would not let her down. Neighbors across the town organized a giant parade of firetrucks, cars, motorcycles and noise that passed by the end of the family’s driveway with Mabel looking on in sheer glee and excitement!
Her parents said that was indicative of the amazing support they have received throughout Mabel’s long struggle. Their community stood by them, giving them constant encouragement, support and hope during these very tough years.
And that’s what it’s all about. As Christ has loved us, so he calls us to love one another, especially the vulnerable among us.
As a footnote, have you ever wondered what became of Peter? Well, he would make the ultimate sacrifice for such devotion to his Lord. He would share the Good News of Jesus, boldly, courageously, constantly. Because of this Peter would one day find himself nailed to a cross in Rome. And he would request to be crucified in a downward position for he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
Peter, who had denied his Lord, would indeed deny himself and follow the risen Christ to the very end in years of meaning and purpose. Yes, for Peter, it was the adventure not just of a lifetime, but of an eternity!
Our Lord’s parting words to Peter on that peaceful morning along the Sea of Galilee long ago are his same command to us:
Do we dare heed the call?