Apr 282011

The disciples grinned at each other, stomachs no longer growling, hunger completely satisfied.  Jesus had continued to serve them the fresh-caught baked fish and bread until they could hold no more. Now they stood around the fire, invigorated by the cool morning air, the sun just beginning to creep above the hills to the east. Pleased with the lesson just taught and learned, Jesus slowly looked around the circle, a smile forming on his face. One more lesson to teach, he thought. One more wound to heal.

“Peter,” he said quietly,”Do you really love me more than the others love me?”

He straightened, a look of self-satisfaction and pride in his expression.

 “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”   

 Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15 NIV.

Peter’s gaze was fixed on his hands. He glanced behind him, looking for small sheep, then feeling a little sheepish himself.

Jesus cleared His throat. Peter hesitantly began to look up , a reluctant sigh escaping his lips.

“Peter,” Jesus spoke just a little louder,”Do you really love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

 Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” verse 16.

The silence was deafening. The other disciples shifted their positions on the sand and stone of the beach, uncomfortable even though another was the object of Jesus’ attention. Peter didn’t move a muscle, his face devoid of expression, not looking at anyone. Especially not looking at Jesus. The silence continued. One minute. Then two.

“Peter,” Jesus said for the third time, His voice stronger now, challenging, carrying outside of the circle and down the beach.

For the third time, Peter heard his name called. A look of hopelessness and pure despair crossed Peter’s face. He had a sudden flashback of his claim that others would desert Jesus, but that he never would. He remembered an evening meal where he promised loyalty. He remembered the voice of Jesus, full of love and pain, predicting his threefold betrayal.

“Peter,” He spoke powerfully,”Do you love me?” His voice pierced the cool morning air just like it pierced Peter’s heart. He fell forward to the ground, his face grinding into the sand, completely humbled, no trace of pride left. He groaned, his voice muffled,

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” verse 17.

Peter waited, his heart thudding loudly in his chest. Would it all end here? A moment of weakness causing rejection and separation? Would Jesus send him out just like He sent Judas? He heard gravel shifting and grating as someone slowly stood.

A quiet voice said, a loving, accepting voice said, a commanding voice said,”Feed my sheep!”

Peter raised, brushing the sand from his face. His head shook with confusion and maybe, just maybe, the beginnings of hope. He heard footsteps leave the circle and move farther and farther away. He sat up, turning around to see Jesus walking steadily away from him and down the shoreline. Still confused, he sat there, surrounded by the others, still silent, still unmoving.

Suddenly, Jesus whirled and looked back, looked directly at Peter. The others moved aside, leaving a clear path between them.

“Peter!” Jesus’ powerful voice echoed like a trumpet call  from the surrounding hills. The look on His face, His commanding stance, every inch the Son of the Living God. Each disciple heard the voice of the Creator God, the voice that spoke the sun into the sky, the voice that raised Lazarus from the dead. Not a sound broke the silence that held the echoes of His voice. Not a trilling bird call, not a slapping wave, not a whisper of wind.

Peter stared directly at his Master, still silent, still unmoving.

Jesus, a smile slowly spreading across His face, shouted in the same commanding voice,”FOLLOW ME!” and, still smiling, He turned to continue His walk.

With a look of pure joy on his face, Peter lunged to his feet and ran after his Jesus.

What was it about those few words? What meaning, what message passed between them? I think something like this- “Peter, I know you. Peter I know your weaknesses. Peter I know you love me. Peter, I want others to hear your total commitment to Me. Peter your denial, your betrayal, your sin does not make Me love you less, does not keep Me from using you. Because it’s not about you, Peter. It’s about Me and My  Father’s will. Your sins are forgiven and forgotten, Peter. Look only ever forward, Peter. You are part of Me, Peter.  I have a job for you, Peter. Follow me, Peter. Copy Me, work with me, fish for men with me, prepare to go home with Me!

What meaning for me? Have I denied? Have I run away? Have I stopped following? The same forgiveness, the same forgetting, the same future that Peter was given is also mine if I just follow Jesus.

Part 3 of a 4 part series beginning with Triple Rejection Before Sunrise and 153 Miracle Fish and ending with Focus, Peter!

Apr 222011

Resurrection shock worn off, Peter and a group of friends had fished the night away, hoping for a little cash money. Many of them were not only experienced fishermen, they new everything there was to know about the Sea of Galilee. They knew the currents, the best fishing areas, the best shoreline to beach their boats. In spite of all this knowledge and experience, they spent the entire night in vain, catching nothing.

 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” John 21:4-5 NIV.

Grudgingly, these esperienced fishermen had to admit that they had caught exactly nothing.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” verse 6.

I can just hear the grumbling. Move the heavy, water-soaked net just a few feet to the other side of the boat? Who did this guy think he was? God?

But to their credit, they took the stranger’s advice and moved their net.

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. verse 6.

John, finally recognizing Jesus, told Peter who the stranger was. Peter, typical Peter, jumped into the lake and swam the 100 yards to the  shore!

Gasping for breath, he pulled his dripping self out of the water and stared in amazement! A fire, burned down to coals, fish baking, and bread!

 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Don’t you just love that? Jesus sticks with the understatement. “you will find some“, bring “some“.  Yeah, they got some fish alright!

 Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net shore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. verse 11.

Some fish! So many that they had to leave the net in the water and tow it to shore behind the boat!

 I’m thinking of the responses I would have made to the disciples.”When will you ever learn?” or “Why are you playing in the water instead of focusing on your mission?”  But no-

 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” verse 12.

Jesus, awaking hours before dawn, building a fire, catching His own fish, waiting for the disciples to give up on their own efforts.

Jesus, the ultimate servant leader. Jesus, serving food for their stomachs before food for thought. Jesus, more concerned about connecting than criticizing.

Father, let me give before I ask. Let me love before I teach. Let me serve before I lead.

(Part 2 of a 3 part series beginning with Triple Rejection before Sunrise and  followed by Triple Commit After Breakfast.)

Apr 122011

“Weren’t you with the guy who’s on trial?” the girl questioned. Peter winced as he heard the words. He had tried his best to melt into the crowd, not wanting to be noticed, but unable to tear himself away from the courtroom drama unfolding as the night wore on.  “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” he answered defensively, fear making his voice just a little louder than he had intended.

Peter eased himself away from the group, attempting to be casual. Hoping to regain anonymity, he joined a circle of  court staff warming themselves by an open fire.  The firelight cast harsh highlights and shadows on his face as he turned around, trying to let the warmth from the flames soak in from all sides. Slowly, he became aware that someone was staring at him across the fire.

“Yeah, this guy definitely was with him. I recognize him!” Peter slowly turned, seeing the pointing finger directed at him. “&$#%@!, you’re crazy. I don’t know him from Adam!” Peter retorted, letting a little anger turn his voice harsh. Peter finally made an admission to himself. He was afraid. He was really afraid! Ever since the garden, seeing Jesus captured violently, he had been afraid. His one attempt to defend Jesus failed when he missed the attacker’s head and lopped off his ear instead. And then, to have Jesus miraculously re-attach the ear and tell him to put up his sword-  He was the Christ, wasn’t he? But he was going down! Peter lost all the will to resist and started thinking about survival. He had no desire to be captured and tried as a troublemaker like Jesus!

 He felt someone jab him in the shoulder. Turning, he saw a relative of the man he had attacked in the garden. “Deny it all you want, but you are definitely with that guy! Besides, your accent says you aren’t from around here!”

Peter stared dumbstruck as his heart pounded several heavy beats. This was it. He could almost feel the rope being tightened around his wrists, hear the tearing sound of his coat being ripped from his shoulders, feel the bite of the chunks of metal woven into the whiplash as it ripped into the muscle of his back. No, no, no! Not him, not here. Not tonight!

He inhaled through his nostrils. Opening his mouth, the most vile curses poured out. Everything he had heard from the rough fishermen on the docks in Galilee. He lost all reverence for God’s name, saying things that no Jew would ever utter, thoroughly denying that he had ever known Jesus.

And then he heard the sound, the unexpected, yet normal sound piercing the early morning air. The sound of a rooster crowing. Once, then silence, then once again.

Horrified, Peter instinctively looked behind him toward the courthouse hoping against hope that…. But there he stood.  Jesus, beaten, bruised and bloody. Jesus, the one who had heard him promise loyalty to the death just a few hours ago.  Jesus, the one who had predicted his failure.

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!  John 13:38 NIV.

Peter could feel the guilt weighing heavily on his shoulders. He stood rooted to the ground, unable to move. Tears began to make their way down his face. He felt their saltiness on his lips. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from Jesus. What would he say? What would he do? Had Jesus heard his every word?

No words came from Jesus’ lips. No harsh expression showed on his face.  Peter stared. Sorrow filled Jesus’ eyes. Recognition that Peter had failed him just as He said he would. But there was something else in those eyes. Something that made Peter feel even more guilty. Something that could only come from God.

The tears were free-flowing now.  His body racked with sobs, Peter finally turned from Jesus and staggered toward the courtyard gate, trying to get away from those eyes.

Father, let me stand for You today. Let me be willing to be counted for You today. Let me joyfully be recognised as Yours today. And if I fall- no, and when I fall, look at me like Your Son looked at Peter. Amen.

Part 1 of a 3 part series followed by 153 Miracle Fish and Triple Commit After Breakfast.

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