Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Seashore Marked by Forgiveness (Holy Land #4 of 14)

Imagine with me that you are Peter. It is now just a few days after the horrible events of the crucifixion of Jesus. Over the past 3 years you have been the most vocal of all Jesus’ disciples. You are the one that emphatically answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” with the words, “You are the Christ, the Son of God, the living One!” You are the one who dared to step out of the boat in the midst of a storm and walked for a few steps on the water. You were the one who boldly claimed that you would die for Jesus and demonstrated your resolve by cutting off the ear of one who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden.

But now you have returned to your simple Galilean life of fishing. You are defeated and lonely. In the end, hours before His death, you have denied the Lord you thought you loved…not once…not twice, but three very distinct times, just as Jesus had predicted. It is early in the morning and you are bringing your boat back in from fishing. You should be hungry, but you haven’t had much appetite since all of these events occurred. You are still trying to figure it out. You went to the tomb of Jesus and it was empty. You saw Him appear alive in the upper room. But what now?

As you make your way into shore and get within about 100 yards of land, you see a small fire on the shore. Someone is making their breakfast. You strain to see who it might be. Is it? It can’t be! Yes, it is! It is Jesus! You leap into the water and as fast as you can move, you combine swimming and running to get to land as soon as you can. Jesus invites you to sit and enjoy some fresh tilapia that He has cooked for breakfast. As you eat He asks you this question, “Peter, do you love me?” Though your answer is far from convincing you reply affirmatively. Jesus asks you three times. Each time he responds to your weakened reply with the words, “Feed my sheep!” In the weeks, months and years to come, that is exactly what you will do with great power as God uses you to expand His church which He told you before that the gates of hell could not prevail against.

While in Israel I stood on this shore. I could almost see Peter jumping out of his boat. I could almost smell the aroma of fish cooking on the fire. This was when the first wave of real emotion hit me on my Holy Land trip. Pastor Dan Travis (our group leader who is a friend of mine that pastors the Palmyra Grace Brethren Church), in tears, challenged us that even though we, like Peter, have failed Jesus many times, we can still let go of our past guilt and shame and because of Christ’s forgiveness, we can focus and recommit ourselves to doing the work that God has called us to do…reaching and teaching people.

That is my calling! But like, Peter, I have also failed my Lord many times, in fact, more times than I care to admit. To think that I was standing on that very shore where the power of Christ’s forgiveness gave Peter a new start was overwhelming. The tears flowed as I looked out onto the Sea and then reached down and picked up a pebble from the beach to keep as a reminder of the power of Christ’s forgiveness. Like Peter I desire to jump out of the boat and run to Jesus! Yes, Lord I love you! I will feed your sheep!

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