Part 3 of John 21:1-19
Westminster Presbyterian Church
John 21 part 3, John 21: 13-19
We continue with the story of Jesus’ third resurrection appearance according to John.
The disciples are fishing in Galilee,
Doing the familiar things they used to do.
They go fishing, and catch nothing.
Jesus give them a little encouragement, Cast your nets on the right side of the boat, and there they find loads of fish.
And now, Jesus seeks to restore at least Peter if not all of them on their way of discipleship.
[The retelling of the story is adapted from a combination of Bob Lupton’s Urban Perspective publication “Let’s Go Fishing, (Again)! and Caleb O. Oladipo’s article “John 21:15-17” Interpretation pp65-66.]
By the time the others hauled the bulging net to the beach,
the still wet Peter was warming his hands by a crackling fire talking with Jesus, who appeared a little different.
This Peter was a little different, too.
Bold as he’s always been he dove in the water,
Why Peter didn’t he walk on water as he had tried before?
Maybe he’s a little hesitant, especially when he realizes what’s really going on.
The last time he was warming his hands around a crackling fire was just before Jesus crucifixion.
I will not deny you Lord, I’ll stay with you to the end, he had promised.
But, after Jesus’ conviction, it was hard enough to navigate the big city with those strange folks.
Jesus was gone, Peter might be next, what difference did it make if he changed his mind.
Aren’t you one of Jesus’ men? Peter was asked around that fire.
I tell you I don’t know the man,” came the response.
Three times he denied Jesus. Peter hadn’t forgotten...
Did Jesus know Peter had denied him? Lied? How close could he get?
“Come on over, join me be the fire. Have some breakfast.”
When stomachs were full and good friends relaxed around the warm embers,
Jesus directed the conversation to Peter. “Simon, son of John…”
Jesus uses the full title of Peter...
In Nigeria, especially among the Yoruba people, the use of a full title of an individual implies that an important message is to follow.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?
By asking Peter, Do you love me....the focus is on Peter’s love for Jesus.
But, the questions stung a bit as Peter remembered his cowardly act...
“I do love you, Master,” Peter reassured Him. “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus directed.
“Do you love me, Simon, son of John?” the Master repeated.
“Yes, Master,” Peter replied again, “I do love you.”
again Jesus instructs, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus looked directly at Peter and for the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” What was Jesus getting at?!
“You know everything there is to know, Master,”
“You’ve got to know that I love you.” (frustration)
“Then feed my sheep.”
The message was clear. Three times denying. Three times redeeming.
Simon, son of John, the fisherman was being restored to Peter, the rock, fisher of men. And then:
“You will die one day, Peter. How shall you live your life?”
“Follow me,” came the plain invitation. And Peter did, again.
Jesus is not about punishing, humiliating, payback...what does this say about God?
Jesus shows the path of restoration, by calling on Peter to claim his true self as a servant of God,
rather than his false self which emerges out of fear....
Without this act of restoration, how might have Peter lived his life?
But, restoration came, and so did the church’s foundation.
Who have we done wrong?
Who have we let down?
What do we hope from them in order to restore the relationship?
What are our attitudes toward them?
Peter dove in the water...and accepted an invitation to breakfast.
And then the real questions of power: Who has done us wrong?
Who has let us down? How do we seek restoration with them?
What is Jesus’ example with his disciples?
A great leader in South Africa once said:
"Those who think of themselves as victims eventually become the victimizers of others."
If we are harmed, we may go on the the journey of victim to victimizer - as individuals, as communities, and as nations.
But, the journey of healing is to move from being a victim to a survivor to a victor, to take back agency.
Denied and abandoned by his friends in his darkest hour...
Jesus joins them on the beach, helps them with their fishing project, invites them to share a meal...
And then the challenge to Peter...
restoration so that he may respond again to the invitation to follow.
Father Michael Lapsley is a former South African anti-apartheid activist. In 1990, three months after the release of Nelson Mandela, the ruling de Klerk government sent Father Lapsley a parcel containing a religious magazine with a highly sophisticated bomb planted inside. When Lapsley opened the magazine, the explosion blew off both of his hands, destroyed one eye and burned him severely. Father Lapsley went on to work at the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town, South Africa, which assisted the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
In an interview shortly after the Boston bombings, Fr. Lapsley said as a response:
Well, firstly, compassion to those who died...
I guess, in a particular way, I identified with those who suffered traumatic amputation.
I’m conscious, as happened to me, that something happened in an instant, but people live with the consequences for the rest of their lives.
I’ve been encouraged that so much of the world has responded with kindness, generosity and compassion—the best which is in us.
But, I’ve had a sense of horror as well. I was watching a local television channel, and I was hearing a state senator defending torture. [People’s responses] to horrific things [can bring] out the worst in them.
My heart reaches out to the families of those who may have been responsible, and I wonder what it is that they may be going through.
I’m concerned about Islamophobia, which has been part of the response that we have seen.
I am concerned that, in the name of fear, rights that people in the United States developed over several centuries seem to keep being eroded.
In my experience, sometimes the survivor, the direct survivor, of a horrific incident, has an easier healing journey, in a strange kind of way, than people who get traumatized by what they hear and what they watch [from a distance].”
When Lapsley was asked what he would say to the person who tried to kill him, he responded:
A speculative question. I think if the person doesn’t care about what...they did to me..., I’m not sure that I want to meet them. If, however, they’re a prisoner of what they did to me, I have a key, and I would be very open to using that key.
If they ask for my forgiveness, one of the things I might say to them:
"Well, excuse me, sir, do you still make letter bombs?"
And they say, "No, no, no. Actually I work at the local hospital."
My response would be, "I forgive you. And I would prefer you spend the next 50 years working in that hospital [instead of going to jail], because I believe a thousand times more in the justice of restoration than the justice of punishment."
So often when we say "justice," we mean punishment, if not revenge.
This type of retributive justice asks the question, "How can you punish them for what they did?"
But there’s another kind of justice: the justice of the journey of restoring relationships.
Restorative justice says: "This reality of life has been destroyed or broken by what has happened. How can we restore the relationship?"
So often in restorative justice, the key actors in the process are central,
differently often when retributive justice happens, the actual direct survivors and victims are swept aside, and the state then acts on their behalf.
Lapsley says he might also say to the person who harmed him:
"Well, yes, I have forgiven you, but I still only have one eye. I still have no hands. I’ll always need someone to assist me for the rest of my life. Of course, you will help pay for that person," so that reparation and restitution are also part of the journey of forgiveness.
Lapsley notes, Key to this work is healing of memories.
If horrible things have been done to us or to our loved ones, people are justified to hate, to be bitter, even want revenge. But the problem is, if we keep those feelings inside of us, it doesn’t destroy our enemies, it destroys us.
How might we give people safe and sacred spaces, where they can detoxify,
where they can deal with the poison inside them, so that they may be free.
Lapsley came to see that if he was filled with hatred and bitterness and desire for revenge, the person who set the bomb would have failed to kill the body, but would have killed the soul.
He calls the work of healing and restoration the "soft vengeance of a freedom fighter," working for a different kind of society, a gentler, kinder, more just society.
Safe space, on a beach, around a fire, with food. Jesus knew well restoration, healing, kindness.
I find it interesting that before Jesus re-invites Peter to follow, he calls attention to the reality that Peter will die, his life will end.
Our time is limited, Some day, we will all share in that common experience called Death.
There is a quote that goes something like:
"If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right."
How might you work to restore relationships today, if this is your last day to do so?
How would live differently, if this were your last day?
Ric Elias was sitting on the front row of the 2009 US Airways Flight which Captain Sculley brilliantly landed in the waters of the Hudson River after losing power from a bird strike.
In those surreal moments as that silent plane sank rapidly toward the Hudson, in the face of sure death, Elias says he learned three things:
1. He said he learned that it all changes in an instant. He thought about all the people he wanted to reach out to, all the fences he wanted to mend, all the experiences he wanted to have but he didn’t.
2. The second thing he learned: He regretted the time he had wasted on things that did not matter with people that matter--his wife, his friends, his kids...When given a second chance, he decided to eliminate negative energy from his life, he would not allow petty things to negatively affect his relationships, he would no longer try to be right ... he hadn’t had a fight with his wife in 2 years!
3. The third thing he learned: He knew he was going to die, and he was sad, he wished for one thing...he wanted to see his kids grow up. He learned a new top priority: to be a great dad.
Elias said, "I was given the gift of two miracles that day. The first was I survived. The second ... to see into the future and to come back and to live differently." “Three things I learned while my plane crashed," TED: Ideas Worth Spreading,
Peter you will die... live life differently, follow me.
How is God restoring us to living life abundantly?
How are we acting to restore others to living life at their full potential?
How are we being called again and again to leave the former things behind and live into the new reality, the new creation God is making before our very eyes through the healing of our hearts and the redemption of our memories?
Feed. Fear not. Follow.
Watch the world being restored before you.