Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Joel 2: 25 – 32
25 I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.
26 You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame.
27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again
be put to shame.
God’s Spirit Poured Out
28 *Then afterwards
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
30 I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. 32Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.
2 Corinthians 5: 16 – 21
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;* even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,* we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,* not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Luke 22: 59 – 62
59Then about an hour later yet another kept insisting, ‘Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean.’ 60But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about!’ At that moment, while he was still speaking, the cock crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ 62And he went out and wept bitterly.
John 21: 15 – 17
Jesus and Peter
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he 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.
Reconciliation and restoration are often closely linked for when we are reconciled to God, God is able to restore us.
But forget terminology. Let’s see what happened to Peter
In our Gospel readings we see two pivotal events:
Peter is warming himself in the courtyard of the high priest’s house while Jesus is being grilled by the religious authorities. Three times he loses courage when asked if he were a follower of Jesus. He denies it each time. Like the other disciples, Peter abandons Jesus in his darkest hour. Jesus turns and looks at Peter and we read, 62And he went out and wept bitterly.
Peter is shattered. Big, brave swaggering Peter who earlier had defended Jesus with a sword, and had sworn that he would never deny Jesus, is mortified.
But something happens in Peter. No doubt his racking sobs were the first sign that he was sorry for what he had done. And that’s probably the first thing to notice.
Of course Peter’s tears did not prevent Jesus from being assaulted, whipped and cruelly killed on that simple but altogether cruel implement of Roman torture: a cross.
Jesus dies and is buried in a tomb hewn from the rocky hillside.
But, and we have heard it so often we sometimes treat this as passé, Jesus rises from the dead after three days. What did Peter feel as he and John looked into the empty tomb and realised that Jesus had been telling the truth about rising again? What did Peter feel when Jesus entered the room where they were gathered? Remember he was the natural leader of the group but Jesus doesn’t say a word to him. His heart must have been aching for a word from Jesus, anything to let him know he was forgiven.
But as far as we can tell, he hears nothing. Jesus is busy with Thomas and his doubting.
So Peter announces one day, I am going fishing. (John 21: 3a) Most of the others join him and they fish all night and catch nothing. As they are approaching land they see a figure on the beach. The man on the beach tells them to cast their nets to the right and they net a large haul of fish.
It’s then that John says, It is the Lord. (Vs 7b)
Remember the fishing was Peter’s idea. There was nothing especially spiritual about this – if anything it would have reminded Peter that Jesus had originally called him away from fishing. Did he feel another pang of guilt?
Either way, for Peter this is a pivotal moment. Peter sees Jesus’ blessing of the fishing venture as a small sign of approval and he whips on some clothes and dives into the sea to swim to Jesus. That’s all he needed. A small sign, and he was in like Flint.
Jesus has cooked breakfast. They add some of their own fish to the fire and join in a meal of fish and bread. We read that the disciples didn’t want to ask Jesus who he was because they knew it was him. He was the same but different. Can you imagine how Peter’s heart must have been bursting, he who had said to Jesus 27“Look, Peter replied, “we have left everything to follow You. What then will there be for us?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, in the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matthew 19: 27 – 28). Had all that been in vain? Was he still in Jesus’ good books, let alone part of God’s grand plan?
Then comes that wonderful moment after breakfast when Jesus turns to Peter and says, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’
Jesus is giving him an opportunity to profess his loyalty!
He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ I can’t hide anything from you, Lord. You know that I love you!
And then comes the big moment. ’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Three times Jesus asks the question. And three times he gives the same answer. Jesus has restored him to his place of leadership, but now with a new perspective altogether.
We’re now in danger of mixing metaphors but it can’t be helped. Peter is to feed the sheep, i.e. lead the disciples, but he is also given a powerful reminder that he has been called to be “a fisher of men” and that this task is blessed by Jesus.
Peter has been restored and reconciled to his Lord and he is given a big reminder that his life’s work is a work of restoration and reconciliation in bringing others to God who (if you like) are not yet in God’s net.
And here’s the thing, isn’t it wonderful of God to say:
- “First and foremost, you’ve been reconciled to me yourself.
- Secondly, you need to reconcile other people to me.
- Thirdly (and this is a reference to Acts Chapter 10) it’s to you I’m going to reveal that the reconciliation of the Gentiles is part of my plan too.
25 I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten, God says through the prophet Joel.
What’s more 28 *Then afterwards
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
In Pauls words, 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,* not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (2 Corinthians 5)[ANECDOTE – if you want this information contact me – Jonathan]
There’s a big lesson in this for us. No matter how dark things feel, God is an habitual reconciler. He can’t help loving. And if like Peter we respond, God will restore us, heal us, coach us and support us all in a ministry of reconciliation, of reaching out in his love to others.
There’s nothing airy-fairy about this. Cast your net to the right and work hard to pull that lot in. The nets won’t break, just do as I ask you and your ministry will bring you and others blessing.
God specialises in transforming the broken into the beautiful. It’s his way.