Forgiven! John 21: 1-19
In the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus appears three times to his disciples. The third time, Simon Peter and seven other disciples have had a poor night of fishing when Jesus appears on the beach at daybreak. They did not recognize him; nonetheless, they obey this strange man who tells them to drop their nets on the right side of the boat and they bring up a miraculous catch of fish. When one of the disciples recognizes Jesus, Peter does something strange: he gets dressed (he was fishing naked) and jumps in the water. It may be that Peter was his usual impulsive self, trying to get to Jesus as soon as he could. Or it may be that Peter was his usual impulsive self, hoping to cover up and hide from Jesus. Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night of his arrest, arguably the worst-behaved disciple next to Judas. He may have had mixed feelings about seeing Jesus again!
But Jesus invites Peter and the other disciples to a breakfast of grilled fish, and when they finished Jesus had a question for Peter: "Do you love me more than these?" Peter says, yes! and Jesus tells him, "feed my lambs." This exchange happens two more times -- corresponding to the three times Peter denied Jesus - and then Jesus says to Peter, "follow me." So Peter does, and gets on with the work of "feeding the lambs," or leading the people of God and spreading the good news. Peter never said, "I'm sorry," and Jesus never said, "You're forgiven." But that's what happened.
In our Lenten series on forgiveness, we've talked about how feelings of shame or guilt can get in the way of apologizing, repenting and repairing relationships. They drag us down and tempt us to hide and avoid conflict. They keep us from hearing and following God's call. Jesus, through the cross and resurrection, invites us to lay this burden down. To remember that we are forgiven and loved, no matter how many times we've denied God or hurt others. But this forgiveness also comes with a requirement - to change our ways, to follow Jesus, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
This combination of grace and call is especially helpful to remember when we're facing tough issues or having difficult conversations in our family or communal life. Around money. Race. Marital betrayals. Sexuality. The direction of the church. Thank God, Christ has Risen! We can trust in the grace he offers. We can listen, learn and turn, following Jesus into new life and furthering Gods' kingdom of justice, peace and love.
Grace and Peace,