..."and a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the way of holiness; evil minded people shall not travel on it, but it shall be for those wayfarers who are traveling toward God. (Isaiah 35:8, adapted)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jesus & Peter: Redeeming the Failures of Others...John 21:1-19

There's no doubt about it:life comes at you hard.
Failure, abysmal failure, no doubt, is somewhat
inevitable. God has to bring us to the end of
our long, hard selves in order to get us into
any shape at all that can be called holy and healthy.

Thank God that we have a Savior who knows
how to lift us up out of the miry clay and
set our feet on the Rock without unnecessary
comment. Our God leads and teaches and corrects
with the utmost humility.

There is much talk about spiritual leadership,
but what really is a godly leader like? If you
were going to be fall into your worst failure,
who would you want to gather your sadly shattered
pieces and help you put them back together?
Implicit in that answer is a lot of what it means
to lead like God leads.

Have you ever broken something that is precious
to someone else? There is nothing worse than
the feeling of horrible helplessness when you
realize that you have dropped something that
cannot be easily or at all fixed, or acted, or
been acted upon, in such a way that trust has
been broken. This can happen to us as a child
with our mom's favorite collectable or it can
happen relationally to us as adults with each
other. It can happen, and many times does happen,
between us and God. Or any mixture of all of the

We are hurt often, we hurt others often:
that part we get. But how do we respond as
Jesus would? For how we respond to the
failure of another, especially if the
failure has caused us great hurt, is a test of
our ability to lead as Jesus does. In these
situations we have much more to lose than
the one who appears to have failed.

Again, when you fail, who would you like to
come and help you up? Wouldn't you
want someone to come and get you
as gently but as effectively as Jesus
got Peter when he denied Him? Jesus did
not mock Peter, or shame him, but
gently shows him the path to restoration
and, therefore, to freedom.

Peter denied Jesus at the worst
possible time. In Jesus' hour
of need, Peter not only was
not there, he turned his back
on Jesus. Peter failed--royally
failed. If we think that Jesus
did not feel the pain of that,
I think we misunderstand

Christ was hurt by his fellows,
have no doubt about that.
Betrayal is the nastiest of things.
Yet He kept on doing the will of
God to the very end. He plunged
into death so that we might be
plunged into life. He was pulling
all of humanity out of the pit
on His very back. Alone.

And yet, without fanfare, at the
first possible moment, he heads
back for the one hurting, lost
sheep: Peter.

With Christ there was no posing for
paparazzi. No grand talk of beating
the devil's butt singlehanded. No
victory swagger. Not even
any reading of "the Riot Act"
to Peter for cracking under
pressure at the most crucial moment.
Jesus is back to basics: cooking
breakfast on the beach. Serving.
Low of heart. Looking to take
Peter back in and get him back on track.

If Jesus comes in too high,
even though He certainly could,
Peter might not, probably would
not, take the extended hand up.
True leaders are not focused on
themselves, but on reaching
the last lost sheep. They do not
say, "99 is good enough, let the
last one go, they deserved it."
They do not count whether the
fallen one has money or not, or
talent, or beauty, or brains or
anything this world calls "worth"
--they go out and get them.

Jesus does not say much to Peter,
but He keeps saying the same
thing until Peter gets it.
"Peter, do you love Me? Feed
My sheep." No direct mention is made
of Peter's denial. Peter must get
that Jesus asks him three times,
"Do you love me?" because Peter
denied him three times. Kind of
a cancelling out of the denial
with love. Love is like that.

Peter says, "Lord, you know that I
love You." He understands, in a new
way, that the Lord does know--knows
everything about Peter, knows his depths,
and knows his failures and definitely
knows his weakness. Its all out there.
Jesus in not horrified, not surprised,
not out to embarrass Peter, but to give
him what he needs to get back on the path.

The setting reflects the moral of the
story. Jesus, as always, has prepared
what they need as a good leader always
does. Peter has decided to go fishing,
because that is what we do when we fail:
revert to our old life, but that old life
produces no fruit, and in this case, no fish.

Jesus already has fish cooking on the shore.
This is his third appearance to his
disciples since He has risen. He invites
them to eat of what He has, but He also
invites them to bring forth out of the
share He miraculously provides for them.
They have been fishing all night and caught
nothing. Now they have more than they could
imagine once they take His playful advice.

Jesus tells them, "put your net on the other
side of the boat." Yea, right. The truth is,
with God, the impossible, amazing answer is near
at hand, right under our noses, if we but
believe God. He brings a little miracle,
an ironic little miracle, to the beach
that morning to take the morose tone
off things. Jesus always seems to be
doing that. "Just letting you guys know
that its the same old Me."

"It's no big deal. Just get back to business."
Do you love Me? Feed my sheep. Love
them the way I love you. Love them
just like this. No fanfare. Breakfast
prepared, a little straight talk,
communion shared, life given. Off to
work. Radical acceptance and radical
forgiveness are like that.

When you experience radical acceptance
and radical forgiveness you have a
better chance of becoming the kind
of person that will go and pull
people out of their failures without
the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" lecture.
You have a better chance of being
like Jesus: the answer comes to the 'just
on the other side of the boat' kind
of person, a love God and take care
of others kind of person. And by the way,
breakfast is waiting. Don't be late.
Make the road back as easy as possible
for others.

Be like Christ. He leads best who bows
his knee to lift others up. That is
rarer than hen's teeth, and infinitely
more valuable. Happy fishing.

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