This morning I was treated to a beautiful message of hope as I sat in the Sunday worship service at Immanuel Baptist Church here in Abbotsford.
Pastor Kyle Corbin preached on John 21, which covers a miraculous catch of fish and Peter's reinstatement after denying three times that he even knew Jesus in the events leading up to Jesus' crucifixion.
It was the latter portion of the sermon that really caught my attention. Let me tell you why.
After denying Jesus three times, when we get to today's story, three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Three times Peter said that he did.
I mulled over this on my way home. The cynical part of me says that of course Jesus asked Peter three times. What a perfectly passive aggressive way to stick it to Peter so he feels appropriately ashamed of himself for his triple denial. After all, isn't that what many of us do? Isn't this what many of us have had done to us? Our mistakes, our failures, our shame - is forever waved at us, making sure we never really lift up our heads again. And why not? It's what Jesus did to Peter.
Or is it??? When you read that passage, although Jesus does ask Peter 3 times, at no point does Jesus make any reference at all to Peter's failure. In fact, quite the opposite occurs!
Each time Peter answers in the affirmative, Jesus instructs Peter to "feed my lambs", "take care of my sheep" and "feed my sheep".
There were no hoops for Peter to jump through. No long drawn out period of restitution. Peter was not required to prove himself or to earn his way back to being used by Jesus.
This message of hope, as demonstrated by Jesus, is what we need more of in our churches and in our communities.
Failure visits all of us. We all stumble and fall and get up again. Jesus asks "do you love me?" and when we answer "yes", then His restoration is immediate - and complete.
How many of us have struggled along after failure, being reminded constantly of our shame as if to make sure we never dare raise our heads again.
Take comfort, my friend. That is not the way of Jesus. It is the enemy who wants us to feel like we have become second and third class citizens in God's community.
My challenge to you - and to myself - is to move forward in faith, believing that Jesus' message of hope, love and reinstatement is for YOU (and for me).
Jesus was not addressing Peter with cynicism or in a passive aggressive manner. Not at all - Jesus doesn't play games with our hearts and minds. He offers true forgiveness, true restoration, true reinstatement. Jesus does not sentence any one of His followers to live in the wilderness, living from one day to the next on whatever scraps of kindness "better people" toss our way.
We are all failures. We are all loved, forgiven and redeemed. 100%.
Not one of our failures is hidden from His sight - yet He says as He said to Peter "Do you love me?" That is the only question. Therein lies all of our hope.
Yes! My answer is Yes!