Sunday, March 24, 2013

Never, Never, Never

This is the final week. Friday marks the day that Jesus gives his life.  On a tree that he created and grew with that very intention. If we didn't know that Sunday came, the forecast may look somber and bleak.  However, we have the privilege of hind sight and we know that the grave could not contain the love that death so eagerly anticipated conquering. 
 Today we celebrate Palm Sunday..the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem..the beginning of the week that would bring to fruition the entire reason for Jesus' existence on Earth.  One key player stands out in my mind. He's the loud mouth, the walk on water show off, the one who encountered Jesus on the Sea of Galilee and left it all behind, never looking back....before I give him too much credit I should point out that he also wanted to know what was in it for him...."We've given  up everything to follow you.  What will we get out of it?" (Matthew 19:27 NLT) 
Peter.  The never, never, never guy.  As Jesus set about preparing the disciples, Peter, the stand out guy, pulls Jesus aside to correct him.  "Heaven forbid Lord," he said.  This will NEVER happen to you!" (Matthew 16:22 NLT)  and later as they gather in the upper room as Jesus predicts his denial.."Even if everyone else deserts you, I NEVER will. Peter, Jesus replied, the truth is, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times."  No!, Peter insisted. "Not even if I have to die with you!  I will NEVER deny you!" (Matthew 26:33-25 NLT, emphasis mine)
All his adamant confessions of loyalty sounded good at the time, but we know that Jesus was right (big surprise there) and Peter caved under the pressure.  We also know that Peter wept bitterly. I bet Peter was thinking...It's over.  I failed.  He knew I would.  Guess he'll have to find a new rock to build his church on. There went my throne he promised me.  Someone else will have to serve as judge to the twelve tribes of Israel.  I'm an EPIC FAILURE.
What I love about this story is the upcoming beach scene.  Man, Jesus always has an awesome come back scene doesn't he?  We look at ourselves and we see failure.  He looks at us and he sees potential.  The beach scene is one of the most amazing pictures of restoration I see in the bible.  It's heart wrenching.  You know why?  Because I see me in Peter. An epic failure.  I have all these lofty ideas of loyalty and devotion..commitment and never, never, nevers...and Jesus assures me that in looking at myself, I too am nothing but a failure.  "But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one! (Psalms 14:3 NLT)
Let's travel to the beach, back to where it all started, at the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus has died, and been resurrected.  He's appearing to his disciples again.  Filling their nets once more. He's playing host, serving breakfast and when Peter hears his voice and John assures him it is the Lord, he can't wait for the boat to dock.  He swims to shore.  He's not hiding in shame, or guilt or regret.  He's running to the Lord. (John 21)
Jesus doesn't even breathe a word of "I told you so."  "Come eat some breakfast", he says.  After the physical needs had been met, Jesus set about meeting Peter's spiritual needs.  I don't know if you ever noticed but Jesus asked Peter if he loved him...and you know what I noticed?  He asked him THREE times.  I find that significant.  Peter has pledged his undying love to Jesus before... but in the end he denied it THREE times.  So here we are and Jesus is asking him "Peter, do you love me?"  "Peter, do you love me?" "Peter do you love me?" Of course Peter tells him he does....and then..."feed my sheep."  No lecture, no recap, no request for an apology...just "feed my sheep." In my mind essentially he is saying, get busy...the past is the past, east to west..forgetting what lies about my father's business.  And just like that, Peter is redeemed, refocused, reaffirmed.
It's the same with us.  As Good Friday approaches and we recall our epic failure to make ourselves right with God and his  great sacrifice to right our inadequacies,  know that he isn't standing on the beach waiting to chastise us for our failures... but to ask us that same question..."Do you love me?" 
FEED MY SHEEP...................