Friday, March 3, 2017

Our Lord Will Not Let His Beloved Go

A wonderful truth, taken from Rebecca Manley Pippert's book, Out of the Salt-Shaker and Into the World, to ponder as we enter the Easter season:

    "We can learn a great deal of information, be full of zeal, master conversational skills, walk closely with God, participate in his community on earth and still blow it. That is one reason God told us so many stories of individuals in the Bible. He knew we would need the encouragement!
     Take Peter. He loved Christ, and yet he constantly made mistakes. His most grievous error came in the last moments of Jesus' life. Jesus had told Peter he would deny knowing him, but Peter staunchly rejected the idea. After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied three times ever knowing him. He even invoked a curse upon himself if he knew him. As the cock crowed, what Jesus said had come to pass, Peter had denied the Lord.
     Imagine how desolate Peter felt after Jesus' death. The last contact Peter had with Jesus was the scene of his own betrayal. In Jesus' most difficult moment when he needed support the most, Peter had turned against him. Then a few days later Peter was told that the Lord has risen. Jesus was alive; his friends had actually seen him. 
     How did Peter feel now? He probably had ambivalent feelings. On one level he would be ecstatic, but on another afraid and ashamed. Maybe the Lord had given up on him. Maybe Jesus would feel Peter had made one too many mistakes.
     But God knew how Peter felt. He had a messenger tell the women who first came to the tomb, 'Go tell his disciples and Peter' that he had risen (Mk. 16:7). 'And Peter' - two of the most beautiful words in the Bible. So the disciples went and said, 'Guess what? Jesus has risen! A messenger from God told us to go and tell you he's here. And, Peter, he said to tell you especially!' Only two words, but they brought a world of hope to a man.
     And what did Jesus say to Peter when he saw him (Jn. 21:15-17)? He asked, 'Peter, do you love me?'
     And Peter said, 'Yes, Lord, I do.'
     And so Jesus asked again, 'Peter, do you love me?'
     Peter perhaps hesitated a bit, and then said, 'Yes, Lord, you know I love you.'
     And then Jesus asked the third time, reminding Peter only too well  of his recent painful history of thrice rejecting Jesus. 
     'And Peter was grieved' and he said, 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.'
     Peter realized that Jesus knew who he was, his fallibility, his limits, his warts. And yet Peter loved Jesus. Jesus knew that too. He had known Peter's faults long before they ever dawned on Peter. And Jesus told him, 'Feed My Sheep.'
     Earlier Jesus had nicknamed Peter (Mt. 16:18). Of all the names to choose, Jesus picked the least likely: he called him Rock. We might have selected another, like Shifty or Quivery or To-and-Fro or Sandy. But Jesus chose Rock.
     Jesus is telling us something through this. First of all, he knows us - me, you. He knows your limits, your broken promises, your failures. But he also knows that beneath all of that, you have a heart of love for him. He knows that you care. And Jesus also has a name for you, a name you would have never picked for yourself, or dared to dream. He sees what he is making you into; he knows what he has in store for you. And he gives you a name that suits what you are going to become. We are people of hope and not despair because we have a future that has been secured by God
     More important than our wobbly love for him is his absolute unswerving love for us. When Peter told Jesus he would always remain faithful to him, Jesus knew his resolve would crumble. Nonetheless, he said, 'Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail' (Lk. 22:31). And he went on to say, 'When you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.' Our Lord would not let Peter go. His love is the absolute of the universe.
Rebecca Manley Pippert