Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Forgiving Peter: John 21 Part #2
I am beginning to see that the road back to normal is not going to be smooth. There are going to be bumps that are unexpected and test the shocks. As we begin to "open" states back for business, it is becoming clear that this process is going to take a while. Despite my desire to have life return to what it was before all this happened, the world is different, people are different, and I am different.
In the second half of the last chapter of John's Gospel, we oddly find Peter in somewhat the same place. Peter cannot merely go back to the way things were; too much has happened. There cannot be a simple, "I'm sorry, and I promise that will never happen again." There cannot be a "we're good, right?" fist bump. Instead, at this moment, Jesus is going to venture into the deep dark places of shame and failure in Peter’s heart and begin a little Gospel surgery.
Breakfast is over, and as the disciples are washing the dishes and enjoying a full belly. When they think that they couldn't eat anymore, Jesus serves dessert. This dessert is not for the stomach but the heart. In a moment of great compassion, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him a question. It is not the question that Peter wants to hear. It is not the question that we want Jesus to ask. We would instead Jesus ask, "do you promise not to fail me again?" We prefer Jesus to say, “well, you messed up, how about not letting that happen again.” And it would be a dream if He said, “Hey Pete, no worries, forget about it.”
The main reason that we want Jesus to say those things and ask us a different question is because it is more comfortable. Author Henri Nouwen says it well when he wrote, "We like easy victories; growth without crisis, healing without pains, the resurrection without the cross." Those kinds of statements keep Jesus out or our heart and at arms-length. They give us something to do, a goal to achieve. However, Jesus is not after our obedience but our hearts!
What we need to know is that those places in our hearts of the greatest same and failure do NOT scare Jesus away. This is the reason why Jesus asks Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" not just once but three times. Jesus is walking Peter back to the three denials, the charcoal fire, and the rooster crowing. Jesus is leading Peter back to his moment of greatest shame and failure. It is here where Peter and we remember the story from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 7:36-50). Remember the one about the diner party, the sinful woman and the alabaster flask of oil? In that story, Jesus taught that "to whom little is forgiven, loves little (Luke 7:47). The opposite is also true: he who is forgiven much loves much. The "rock" that Jesus is going to build His church on is going to be forgiveness and Love.
Peter, you, and I need to know that as we are called to "follow me," no matter the cost, no matter the circumstance. We are called to follow not because we are good little boys and girls but because we are sheep. We are sheep being led by the Shepherd. We are sheep being led by Love Himself.