Going Deeper 5-5-19

From our Gospel text, John 21:19…  “Follow me.”  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Things had certainly not worked out for Peter the way he had anticipated, the way he’d hoped.  So here he was, back in the familiar confines of his boat, doing what he had done for so many years: he was fishing.  And as he and the others manipulated the boat and the nets, Peter was seeking more than mere fish; he was fishing for answers.
Peter was fishing because he simply didn’t know what else to do.  So he and his friends fished all night, yet caught nothing.  But things were about to change.
Well… things had already changed.  The events of the previous days and weeks seemed like a blur, and Peter was greatly perplexed.  What did all of this mean?  Things had unfolded the way  Jesus three times had predicted: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again."  Peter and the others had no clue what Jesus was talking about.
So, okay... there should have been no surprise when it all came down.  But now that everything had transpired according to Jesus’ prediction, what next?  What did it all mean?
And thinking about predictions, Peter’s thoughts turned to another prediction Jesus had made, one that Peter had been determined to prove wrong, but of course failed… failed miserably.  It was extremely hard for Peter to even let his thoughts go there.  It still hurt more than anything he had ever experienced.  Brave, outspoken, even cocky Peter, was brought low by the cocking of a crow.   Three times He denied knowing Jesus.  “Low” doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Peter’s thoughts returned him to the upper room where he and the others had gathered for their Passover supper.  What a strange, strange night.  What a beautiful and terrible night.
Peter cringed when he recalled the ironic discomfort he felt when Jesus, the one whom Peter had recently and boldly proclaimed to the long-awaited Messiah, the one who had given sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, mobility to the lame, who had touched and cleansed lepers, spoke calm to raging storms, and even raised the dead; Jesus, did the unthinkable. The Messianic Lord and King took the role of a lowly slave, kneeling down to wash the feet of His feeble followers.
The goosebumps returned as Peter recalled what that felt like. When Jesus started washing feet and came to Peter, he remembered asking him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me."  Peter blushed as he recalled his characteristically bombastic response, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!"  Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.” 
Peter shook his head.  He felt anything but clean, for just a few moments later Jesus had said to them, "You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.'  But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee."   Peter, always the first to open his big mouth, said to him, "Even though all become deserters, I will not." Jesus said to him, "Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times."  But Peter said vehemently, "Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you."  Oh, my Lord!
Now the tears flowed.  The others in the boat did not notice, for they were also lost in their own thoughts.  But the tears flowed as Peter recalled how Jesus had renamed him, adding to his given name of Simon the descriptive name: Peter.  Yeah, some “rock” I turned out to be!
Peter’s dream-like remembering was suddenly interrupted by a voice.  He looked up and saw a figure on the shore, calling out with a question, then a suggestion: "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No."  He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some."  Deja vu.  So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.”  Instantly they all knew, but John said it out loud: “It is the Lord!”
Of course it was Jesus.  This had all happened before, about the time they had first met Jesus: a night of unproductive fishing, followed by a voice calling out with instructions from the shore, and the resulting catch of more fish than they could handle. “It is the Lord!”
Some things never change.  Peter was the first to react, jumping out of the boat and swimming to shore.  The others were not far behind, bringing the boat and fish, doing all of the work.  And there stood the resurrected Jesus.  He had a fire prepared and some fish were already cooking.  Peter suddenly realized how hungry he was. Smiling, Jesus said: “Bring some of yours.”  And they all shared another meal, and Peter wondered if the others were remembering the very special meal they had shared with Jesus the night of the betrayal… and the denial.  “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus had said.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?"  He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."  A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"  He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."  Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."  He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"  Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?"  And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.”
It struck Peter… Jesus was healing again.  Jesus, the wounded healer, was bringing grace.  “Three times I had denied him; now three opportunities to affirm my love.  Oh, Jesus, how I love you!!  There are not words strong enough to express the depth of my gratitude and of my love.  ‘Follow me,’ you say.  Yes, Jesus, I will follow you.  I now understand that I won’t be flawless, but I will follow you.  I will feed and tend your lambs and your sheep.  I will follow!”
Stepping out of the story for now, I encourage you, my friends, bring your denials, your sin, your guilt and shame, and share a meal with Jesus, the same meal he had shared the night of his betrayal, the night of Peter’s denial.  Experience Jesus’ real presence—his body in the bread and his blood in the cup—and receive his free grace.  Whatever pain you may be feeling, whatever fear you may be experiencing, whatever guilt you may be carrying, come to the table with the rest of your family, and let Jesus embrace you in his healing grace.  Come.
And then follow.  Pray that Jesus would fill you—fill us—with his Holy Spirit, so that we might hear his calling and follow.  Let us together pledge ourselves to the awesome task of gathering and tending and feeding his young lambs and aged sheep, and everyone in between.  Let us seek to bring to God’s table of grace those who need his touch.  Like Peter, let’s respond to Jesus’ grace and healing by affirming our love for Jesus and following our wounded healer… as whole-heartedly as possible. Amen.