Third Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2007
Fresh Grilled Forgiveness
What do you do when you’re frustrated, when the stress gets to you? Some people bake or cook, some people yell and scream. The Apostle Peter went fishing.
The Disciples went to Galilee to wait, but Peter couldn’t sit still. He went fishing. Everybody else came along. There they encountered the risen Christ.
It was a day to fish
That morning was designed to remind the disciples of all Jesus’ teachings. The events are similar to the time Jesus asked Peter to push out from shore in his boat so Jesus could use it as a floating podium. That day the nets were empty, too. Jesus challenged them to push out to deeper water. They did and caught the miraculous catch of fish. Jesus said, “Follow me.” They did.
Now they’re obediently waiting. Again, the night’s fishing was fruitless. Coming in, they encountered a stranger on the beach who inquired about the fishing, then says, “Cast your the net to the right side of the boat.” They do, and they receive another miraculous load of fish. That’s the FISH part.
It was a day for forgiveness
There’s also the forgiveness part. John realized who Jesus was, told Peter, who swam ashore. Over a charcoal fire, the same kind of fire over which Peter denied Christ three times; through grilled fish and bread, Peter experienced forgiveness.
After breakfast, three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times, Peter answers, “Lord, you know I love you.” Maybe the breeze shifted a bit and Peter got a good whiff of the charcoal fire and his mind shifted to that other charcoal fire, and that’s when it struck him what Jesus was doing. Three denials, three questions, three opportunities to experience forgiveness.
What a profound change that must have been. Imagine the load of guilt which had trapped and entombed him. Like Lazarus, Peter was called forth from his tomb of guilt into a resurrected life of faith with a simple question: “DO YOU LOVE ME?” Accompanied by a side order of Bread and Fish.
When Levi was 14 he ran away from home. He stuck his thumb out and hitchhiked to another community. He hitchhiked to El Paso where he got a day job picking cotton. After one day of picking cotton he realized he didn’t want to do that for the rest of his life. He collected his pay and stuck out his thumb again.
This time he wound up in Los Angeles where he checked into a flea-bag motel. He had enough money for two nights. The desk clerk told him about the YMCA. At the Y they asked him all kinds of questions. They’d take him in but the rooms weren’t open yet. Levi went to a little diner across the way and spent his last few cents on a cheese sandwich and coffee.
When he headed back to the Y, the police were waiting for him. The Y had reported him as a runaway. The police took him into custody and put him in a Youth Authority facility. If Levi’s parents would send plane fare, he could go home. If not, he would remain in the L.A. Youth facility until he was 18.
Levi was worried his parents wouldn’t want him back or couldn’t raise the money. For seven long days he wondered what would happen. Late that 7th night, on officer came and without saying a word, took him to the airport and flew him to El Paso.
Levi was afraid to get off the plane. His folks had driven over 250 miles. He was afraid of the reception he faced. The stewardess finally told him he had to get off and started to walk down the metal steps and cross the tarmac.
Somehow his folks got out of the terminal and before he knew it they were running across the tarmac. His father came bounding up the steps and engulfed him in a hug. With his arms wrapped around him, he welcomed him home.
Levi’s father forgave and restored Levi to his rightful place by wrapping him in his arms. Jesus forgave and restored Peter with Bread and Grilled Fish across a charcoal fire.
It was a day to follow
That fresh-grilled forgiveness continued with a single command, the same one given so many years before. It’s a call that every Christian is called to answer. Jesus said: follow me.
Fish led to forgiveness, forgiveness leads to restoration and restoration leads to a call: follow me.
We’ve all had Peter moments in our lives. We’ve all denied Christ or denied being a Disciple of Christ. But the Good News is that, like Peter, we too can experience forgiveness. (Billy Strayhorn)