Easter #3…Series C
Saint Andrew’s EC (4-9&10-2016)
Text: John 21: 1-19.
Title: Overcoming our GUILT…Moving Into God’s Future!!
It seems like it was yesterday, but it happened in 1961 (55 years ago). I was eleven years old and just starting to take an interest in the game of golf. One Saturday morning I was in the golf department of the local sporting goods store. I needed a golf glove (the kind I had seen Arnold Palmer and the rest of the pros wearing). I picked up a golf which cost $5.00 (this was back in 1961). I had a dollar and some change in my pocket. I looked around and didn’t see anyone …so I put the glove under my coat and started to walk out of the store. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an elderly man approached. He put his arm around my shoulder and whispered, “Son, you don’t want to do that…why don’t you give it to me and I’ll put it back on the shelf”. I did, and left the store in a panic. And, as I am telling this story, I am reliving the guilt and shame that I felt that day…55 years ago.
Guilt…it is an incredibly powerful thing. . Garrison Keillor says that GUILT is the “Gift which keeps on Giving” and he is right!. Guilt can be a serious “Roadblock”…an obstacle to living and experiencing the abundant life that Christ has promised all who follow him. Unresolved guilt can be toxic and corrosive…it can ruin our relationship with God and with our fellow human beings and with ourselves Now, I want you to try to imagine the incredible guilt and shame that Simon Peter must have felt as he sat on the beach that morning, eating breakfast with the Risen Christ…imagine, if you can, the paralyzing guilt that Simon Peter must have experienced as he remembered his historic failure on Holy Thursday evening…the knowledge that he had not once but three times denied even knowing (let alone following) Jesus of Nazareth. Imagine the enormous weight of the guilt and shame that Simon Peter carried…it must have been absolutely and overwhelmingly devastating.
Friends, I am convinced that the “center of gravity” in our Gospel reading for this 3rd Sunday of Easter is located in verses 15 thru 18 of chapter #21…the Epilogue to John’s Gospel. It is the marvelous (but rather strange) story of the restoration and rehabilitation of Simon Peter. I would like for us to ponder for a few moments this evening/morning that remarkable “after the mens’ breakfast” conversation between Peter and the Risen Christ.
There are two things that I think are incredibly important…things we need to be aware of if we are going to really understand and appreciate what is going on in this remarkable conversation. The first is that Jesus addresses Peter as “SIMON Son of JOHN” instead of Simon Peter…PETROS (Rock)…the name Jesus had given him after Peter had enlisted in the Jesus Movement. When Jesus called him “SIMON Son of JOHN” it must have been a painful reminder of Peter’s prior life…the kind of person he was…the kind of life he lived before his world was turned upside down by a personal relationship with the “Carpenter from Nazareth”…a painful reminder that,
when three times he denied even knowing Jesus, Peter was acting Like “Simon son of John” rather than Simon Peter…the Rock upon which Christ would build His Church. You see, by calling him “Simon Son of John”, Jesus was helping…urging…pleading with Peter to take that first painful but essential step in moving beyond the bondage to guilt and shame and into the freedom of God’s surprising future!
The second thing that is important about this unusual conversation is that Jesus asks Peter the same question, not once, but three times: “Simon son of John, do you love me”… Simon son of John, do you love me… Simon son of John, do you love me???”. No wonder Peter was hurt…I would be hurt(and a little annoyed) if Susan asked me three times if I loved her…so why would Jesus do this? Why would he ask Peter the same question three times? Friends, I think he did it to remind Peter of his three-fold DENIAL! And this reminder was not harsh or punitive…it was filled with Jesus’ grace and mercy and His forgiving love! You see, Jesus knew that this would be his final meeting with Peter and he wanted Peter to remember, not the three times that he denied knowing Jesus…Jesus wanted Peter to remember his three fold expression of LOVE for Jesus… Jesus wanted Peter to remember his call to be a Shepherd of the Church of Christ…to be a Pastor to the People of God…most of all, Jesus wanted Peter to remember…he wanted Peter never to forget (for the rest of his life) his restoration to fellowship and communion with the Risen Christ…
Friends, here is the Good News (as I see it) in the remarkable story of the restoration and rehabilitation of Simon Peter… We don’t have to live with and be immobilized by the guilt and shame of an unredeemed/unforgiven past…we don’t have to live with and be immobilized by the toxic influence of unresolved guilt and shame over the things we have done or the things we have left undone in the past. WHY?? Because power of Word of the Risen Christ is still able to do for us what it did for Simon Peter that morning on the shores of the Sea of Galilee more than 2000 years ago…the nuclear power of Jesus’ Word (when it is heard and believed and lived) still has the power to set us free…FREE to acknowledge our guilt and confess our sins…FREE to embrace our call love God and to love and serve God’s people…free…FREE AT LAST to move beyond our guilt and shame…FREE to move Boldly…Courageously…Confidently into the glorious freedom of God’s surprising future…