We serve a forgiving God..JOHN 21:1–19
By Anne Marie Richardson
There is no ‘one season’ for the mercy of Jesus – He always was, He always is and He always will be the epitome of mercy for us. But some occasions have a special appeal for each of us; they seem to tug at our sensitivities and bring us face to face with the depth of our Saviour’s mercy. This gospel passage today, from start to finish, is one such occasion for me.
There is Peter, quiet and somewhat pensive after the recent horrific happenings in Jerusalem. He knows his part in it or, more correctly, the absence of his support for his Master. What should he do now after his betrayal? He and his companions walk away from it all, and he leads them right back into their fishing trade.
There is an unbelievable tenderness about this whole scene when the betrayed Jesus comes and ministers to them. He looks out for them with such a gentle tenderness and pure love; He ensures they have a catch; He prepares a meal for them at a charcoal fire – reminiscent of the scene of Peter’s denial. What is the Lord saying to Peter, heart to heart, at this time?
It also makes me wonder what I would’ve done in a situation of betrayal. Would I have been as forgiving? For how long would I have nursed that hurt? Would I have reached out to an offender with even a fraction of such tenderness?
I am forced to do some introspection on the challenge of forgiving as I read this passage. Can I really forgive seventy times seven – or even seven times, or one time, for that matter!
But it doesn’t stop there – Jesus, again very gently, asks Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?”. And Jesus persists with greater intensity two more times. Peter has to know His mind. Indeed, Jesus gives him the chance to come to terms with his inner self, his own conscience. He gets a chance to make peace with himself and with his Master and to admit to the deeper level of love for this man, Jesus, that existed within his own being.
Through this encounter, we continue to see unequivocally that we serve a forgiving God – no matter what we have done He takes us up, dusts us off and restores us to wholeness in Him “…Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Is 1:18).
This love for Peter is so strong and it is so absolving that the Book of Acts gives us the story, in no uncertain terms, of Peter’s response to Jesus’ invitation to him, “Follow Me” (Jn 21:19). Peter is so transformed that, empowered by the Holy Spirit, he leads those very same apostles into a totally new and sacrificial life of witnessing for their Lord, Jesus.
It is because of Peter and the apostles’ acceptance that the gospel spreads “throughout Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). In their journeys, they were often challenged, but they persevered, and so it was that they were glad to suffer for their Lord, for they stood firm as they asserted, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Jesus’ compassion was always the heartbeat of His ministry. Among so many other situations, we saw Him weep at the death of Lazarus (Jn 11: 35), and, ever so gently, encourage and restore the woman caught in adultery, (Jn 8:11).
We pray Lord, that we could have a mere fraction of Your compassion and reach out to empathise with those in need. Lord, help us!
The gospel meditations for May are by Anne Marie Richardson, a retired educator, and a parishioner of the Santa Rosa/Malabar cluster.