Scripture: John 21:15-22
Two weeks ago, there was a story in the news that garnered a lot of attention. Rodeo Road was renamed Barack Obama Boulevard.
Certainly, President Obama deserves every honor that we, as Americans, can give him, for he pressed past the winds of bigotry and ugly resistance and distinguished himself as a great leader and a role model.
We know all about President Obama’s successes, yet we scarcely know about his failures. In 1999, Mr. Obama failed in his quest to become elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. I use President Obama as an example because I need to remind you that failure is a part of life for all of us. Things don’t always go your way even when you have been successful. Failure is real.
Yet, here’s the good news about God – failure doesn’t have the last word! Some of you know what it is like for God to meet you at your point of misery because of a failure and let you know, “I’m not through with you yet!”
Many remember Peter, the primary player in this passage of scripture. He is evidence that God loves us in spite of failure. Early on, Peter spoke so boldly and beautifully. Can’t you hear him, “I am with you, Jesus. Others may fall off and falter but not me.”
Then, when the heat turned up and the disciples’ lives were at risk, Peter lied, cried and denied the Lord three times. Peter, however, is like most of us. We are great big bundles of contradictions.
We can be wonderful one moment and absolutely woeful the next. We can be outstanding in our service for the Lord and then turn around and behave just like the worst of sinners. Aren’t you glad that God’s grace is amazing? Me, too!
What we have here in John 21 is a story of Jesus stopping in on the disciples after the crucifixion, the resurrection and before the ascension. Get the picture in your mind. The disciples have just eaten and Jesus decides to have a one-on-one conversation with Peter, the one who had failed him.
Try to put yourself in the story. Simon Peter knows what he has done. He has disappointed the Lord. I can just imagine that Peter says, “Oh no, I’m in trouble now.” But notice the first thing out of the mouth of Jesus. “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’
You know the story. Three times Jesus inquires about Peter’s love and three times Peter responds affirming his love. Three times Jesus implores Peter to care for the flock.
What can we learn about the love of Jesus from this wonderful story? Certainly, we can learn that Jesus’s love involves confrontation. Notice Jesus’ actions and his words. Many will conclude after a careful reading of the verbal exchange between Jesus and Peter that Jesus wants Peter to deal with his mess. Peter doesn’t sweep his sin under the rug and neither should we. See, the love of Jesus flows to you after you confront your sin and experience the refreshing that follows (Acts 3:19).
Jesus’ love also involves restoration. Consider Peter’s failings. They were significant yet Jesus’ actions restore Peter. Sometimes when we fail, we feel that our punishment will be severe and that God’s blessings and favor will no longer flow our way.
No! Restoration is a wonderful aspect of God’s unique love for us. Oh how Jesus loves us in spite of it all! Hallelujah!
The Rev. James K. McKnight is the senior pastor of Congregational Church of Christian Fellowship, 2085 S. Hobart Blvd., in Los Angeles.