Friday, August 16, 2013

"My favorite Fisherman"

      ~John 21:1-17     
     Peter is my favorite Bible ancestor.  Hand’s down.  Contest over.  I could write a book about 
Peter.  There are so many lessons for me in his story.  So much encouragement.
     When we first meet him, he was fishing with his brother.  An ordinary person, not having a clue about the adventurous life ahead of him.  Sometimes being clueless is an easy place to be. 
     I tell my kids that ignorance is bliss for me.  Routine is comfortable.  I like to keep my head down in the daily grind.  I love the ordinary life.  It’s a sin of mine.  Adventure is not something I seek.  I would have probably looked at Jesus calling my name and classified him as a crazy person.  I would have missed the opportunity of a lifetime, and changed the whole story of the gospels.  But Jesus left Peters story in scripture.  Sometimes I think he did that just for me!
     Peter got to eat three squares a day with Jesus, sleep next to him on the dusty ground with his bedroll.  He got to learn the lessons, see the miracles, and sit around in the evenings and watch sunsets with this man who was God. And Peter walked on water.  Amazing story.  
     But Peter had a bit of a pride problem in his heart.  He thought he loved Jesus the most, and he set out to prove it every chance he had.  Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?  But remember that old saying?  Pride comes before the fall. Peter would fall to depths that few of us experience, especially in such a public way.  Peter looked Jesus right in the eye and proclaimed loudly, in front of his running buddies (also known by that big important word “disciples“) just how much he loved Him.  Peter promised he would be the last to fall…that he would not deny Jesus even unto death.  Big words.  Big promises.  Big mouth!
     And he got a chance to prove all of that big talk way too soon.  But instead, he snuck around hiding in the crowd, denying he even knew Jesus, terrified he would be discovered, as Jesus was tortured and beaten to death just a few feet away.  He had been warned he would deny Him three times, and when the rooster crowed, he realized his failure.  Scripture says, “and he went out and wept bitterly.”  I think they were probably some of the most heartbroken tears ever shed. 
     But I think the worst was still yet to come for Peter.  I can’t really imagine the depression that must have hit him in the days ahead.  The sense of shame and failure that covered his life.  I can’t imagine living with all those big promises he had made ringing in his ears, the bad dreams that haunted his sleep.  The yearning to relive those moments.  I can’t imagine, and yet I can.  
      And then one day, he’s fishing again.  Thinking he’s right back where he started.  Back in the ordinary, but maybe with a little less pride to deal with.  And up walks Jesus, alive and well.  And Peter, without hesitation, after his failure, dove right off the boat and swam to Him.  
     What mixed emotions he must have felt!  Such great relief, but also such sickening shame.  Bet he didn’t have a big mouth anymore.  Bet he tried to keep his head down.  I’ve been there, done that, a few times myself.  Pleading in my heart that Jesus not look me in the eye.  
     And that’s when my very favorite part of the story happens.  Jesus quietly singles him out in front of the group and speaks to him directly.  And its with love and compassion.  I think that was when Peter really began to know who Jesus was.  In that moment.  With a few quiet words, Jesus gave Peter his life back.  Gave him purpose, direction, reassurance, and most of all, forgiveness.
     Peter’s story taught me what restoration means.  It changed my life.  Peter was a failure.  No doubt about it.  A big, fat, ugly, very public failure.  Peter was the scariest kind of Christian, a shallow one who thought he was deep.  But the fact that Peter tried so hard at every turn tugs at my heart, and I think he tugged at Gods heart too.
      Peter is the epitome of second chances.  He is the original story of redemption.  His story brought so much hope to my life when I was living in shame and praying Jesus wouldn’t look me in the eye.  When I felt the pain of embarrassment, humiliation, both private and public failure.
     But of course, my God (and Peter’s) was never one to sweep things under the rug.  And Peter was restored to better than before.  He became a leader of the church, a pillar in God’s new world.  Peter’s life became a successful one, without pride, without big words and promises.  Peters life became one of thankfulness and forgiveness.  Second chances.  And third and fourth.  Just like mine.  What a story.  I choose to remember Peter as a man of promises fulfilled, not broken. I choose the redemption part.  And I am so thankful God left him, and me, in the story.

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