+ In Nomine Jesu +
The message this morning is based on the Gospel reading from John 21, Jesus' encounter with Simon Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Three times Jesus asked Peter "do you love Me." "Peter was grieved because (Jesus) 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.""
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is a poem written by Samuel Coleridge.
The mariner kills the bird of good omen
His shipmates cry against what he's done
But when the fog clears, they justify him
And make themselves a part of the crime.
Sailing on and on and north across the sea
Sailing on and on and north 'til all is calm.
The albatross begins with it's vengeance
A terrible curse a thirst has begun
His shipmates blame bad luck on the mariner
About his neck, the dead bird is hung.
When you have sinned against someone you can pretend it never happened, but, until you've been reconciled with that person, until the wrong has been addressed, a tension, or, an uneasiness remains in the relationship. In the language of Coleridge's poem, an albatross hangs around your neck. Your friendship, or, your love, if it is that deep of a relationship, is strained as you try to ignore the obvious. No doubt, many a marriage has suffered, to the point of destruction, from neither spouse being able to address the issues that are glaringly obvious to anyone looking on from the outside.
Simon Peter had sinned against Jesus. For a Christian, he had done the unimaginable. Jesus said, "If you confess Me before men I will confess you before My Father in heaven. If you deny Me before men I will deny you before My Father in heaven.". Peter did the latter. When threatened with bodily harm he denied that he knew Jesus.
It was probably fear that made him do it. After-all, Jesus was being carried off by a mob to be crucified. Peter didn't think it would be a good thing to say that he knew him, much less that he followed him, believed in him and worshiped and honored him. Or, maybe doubts arose in his mind as to whether or not Jesus was really the Christ. Jesus did, after-all, seem powerless to defend Himself against the soldiers and everyone else who wanted to see Him dead. Peter probably wasn't ready to die for someone who may not be the Christ.
All of his reasons aside, Peter was carrying a terrible load of guilt, an albatross, if you will, around his neck. He had promised Jesus earlier, "even if all of the other disciples should leave you, I will never leave you." I am the rock man. I am steady, devout, courageous. Once that fateful moment came and Peter denied knowing Jesus, those two moments, his confession and his denial, must have flashed through Peter's mind time and time again. Why couldn't I have been strong when they asked me if I knew Jesus!? Why didn't I do what I promised Jesus I would do!? I'm so ashamed!
When Jesus met with Peter on the shore of Galilee He had already seen Peter at least once before since His death and resurrection, but, apparently, on that occasion, Peter's denial wasn't addressed. While Jesus' first and second post resurrection appearances focused on Thomas and his refusal to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, this time Jesus would turn His attention to Peter, His disciple who was carrying an awful burden of guilt.
"Peter (Jesus said) do you love Me?" It's one of the those questions that God asks, but He already knows the answer. A perfect parallel to the question Jesus asked Peter, at least in terms of intent, is the question God asked of Adam when he sinned against Him. Adam wasn't supposed to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden. It wasn't like God gave Adam a whole bunch of commands and he got confused! There was only one command!
Once Adam did what He was forbidden to do everything changed. Most notably, his relationship with God changed. While he used to enjoy God being present in the garden, now Adam hid from God. His shame overwhelmed him. God, he reasoned, must not see me like this! He hid where anyone would when trying to get away from God...in the bushes!
Adam, God said, "where are you?" God, of course, knew where Adam was hiding. The question is, did Adam know where he was?
Peter loved Jesus and Jesus knew it! Peter though must have wondered about his commitment to Jesus. "Peter, do you love Me," Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to reflect on the question and then to confess his love for Him. More than that, Jesus confirmed His love and forgiveness of Peter by giving him charge of His flock. "Tend My lambs, Peter!" "Feed My sheep!"
Jesus met Peter's sin head on because it was weighing him down. In The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan depicts the striking scene of a Christian fleeing from the world with a large bundle resting on his shoulders. He arrives at a place somewhat elevated above the surrounding area. On that hill there stands a cross, and below the hill there is a grave. As the man comes to the top of the hill with his heavy burden, the load is suddenly released from his shoulders, drops to the ground, rolls down the hill, and disappears into the empty grave.
The setting is a bit different, but the circumstances are the same. we have all sinned against God in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by we have left undone. We have not loved God with our whole heart and we have not loved our neighbor as ourself. God meets you here at this table, even as He met Peter by the sea. As He meets you here He lifts from your shoulders what you can no longer bare.
For Peter, his love for Jesus and his appreciation for God's forgiveness would be expressed in his caring for Jesus' flock. The question for you this morning is how is your love for Jesus and your appreciation for His having lifted that awful burden from your shoulders expressed? More than that, how does God want you to express your love and appreciation for Him?
Well, if Peter was to tend Jesus' sheep and feed His lambs, it stands to reason that there are sheep and lambs who are expected to eat what the shepherd provides! Amazingly, your love for Jesus is most properly expressed, not in what you do or in what you give, but, in what you receive!
You've come here today to receive what God wants to give you, namely His forgiveness and grace. Though you have sinned against Him and would just as soon hide in the proverbial bushes, He says to you, "Take and eat this is My body given for you." "Take and drink, this cup is the New Testament in My blood, shed for you for forgiveness of sins." The setting is different from Peter's encounter with Jesus but the outcome is the same, a relationship restored by the grace and mercy of God! In Jesus' name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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