Do you love me more than these?

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.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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.

My inclination is to give Peter a break here. Yes I know that he denied the Lord three times.
I also know the shame that he felt because of those denials. Jesus saw through that shame and forced Peter to deal with the shame. He saw past those denials and he knew how much Peter loved him. Peter so needed the Lord to drag him out of his shame and challenge him to greater things. And the Lord was up to the task because he saw great things in his friend.

I love that Jesus saw in Peter a heart filled with care. Peter was a fisherman, not shepherd, by trade. Yet the Lord saw a heart filled with love, care and compassion for lost sheep. In speaking these difficult words to Peter the Lord was affirming and proclaiming his desires and plans for him. He is also speaking to us. He tells us that if we love Him we will care for his sheep. The two go hand in hand - if we love Jesus we will also love those that are his.

I love you Lord. Please, I beg you, open my eyes to your hungry lambs.

Come and have breakfast.

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

I so love this story. Once again the disciples find themselves in a familiar place. For the past three years they have eaten many meals with the Lord. John tells us that this is the third time that they have see the risen Christ and this time he comes specifically share a meal with them. It is interesting how they recognized Jesus when he told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. Seeing the many fish they must have flashed back to that day when Jesus did the exact same thing and they had the same results.

Peter must have remembered that day in a boat like that when he confessed himself to be a sinner and Jesus told him that he would soon be fishing for men. I so love Peter's reaction! Overwhelmed at the thought of talking with the Lord, Peter throws himself into the water - he wanted to be the first to see the Lord up close. Interesting also how these disciples knew it was the Lord even though Jesus did not say who he was. I can picture myself there and feel my heart filled with awe, excitement and love for the Lord.

Help me Lord to see you in the ordinary events of my life and in the faces of your followers.

Stay ... until you are clothed with power

Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

A new chapter of mankind is dawning and these humble fishermen, tax collectors and handmaids would be those who would turn the world upside down. These who witnessed, and performed, miracles had a story to tell. These who loved Jesus and walked with him in friendship would now continue his mission to proclaim the good news to all of the earth. It is amazing when you consider the extent, and the impact, of their message on humanity. How is it that these humble few could do such a thing.

Jesus tells them that they are not yet ready for the mission that he is sending them on - they must wait until they are "clothed with power". Does that image simply captivate your imagination? I think that we sometimes get a bit too theological when we consider the work and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The truth is that these who Jesus spoke to were timid and afraid. They simply lacked the ability to continue Jesus' mission. They needed to wait for the promise of the Father.. to wait until they were "clothed with power".

Teach me to wait for the promise Lord. I need to be clothed with holy power.

Do not disbelieve, but believe.

Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I think that it is so interesting how Thomas rejected the witness of his friends who had actually seen the resurrected Christ. In a sense Thomas was the first skeptic in a very long procession of skeptics. Every day it seems that I run across somebody else who rejects the testimony of first hand witnesses like John, the reporter for the account above. Somehow folks seem to think that it is "intellectual" to dismiss the eye witness accounts of the many who saw the resurrected Christ. In truth it is just an unwillingness to believe.

Jesus confronts Thomas, and modern day skeptics, speaking of his need to believe the testimony of those who actually saw him alive. He responds to Thomas' confession and infers that it does not take faith to believe something that you can feel with your hands or see with your eyes. Jesus rebukes Thomas for not believing the eyewitness accounts of his friends. He ends by speaking of the blessings that accompany those that have not seen yet believe the reports of eyewitnesses. I am one of those people.

Lord I believe the reports of the witnesses. Thank you for their first hand reports.

If you forgive ... they are forgiven

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

Can you even imagine what it must have been like for Jesus to simply materialize in a locked room? Visions of Star Trek transports come to mind. I know that I would have been freaked out. Luke adds to the record of this event reporting how Jesus said:
"Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?"
Isn't that the way that we so often deal with things that our brain cannot comprehend? When something unexplainable happens we are troubled and have difficulty believing - things that seem too good to be true are often hard to believe. To comfort them Jesus speaks peace and shows them his wounds. In Luke's account he even eats a meal to show he was real.

And how interesting that the Lord's first message to them is about forgiveness. A bible college teacher once told us about his struggle to forgive and how this verse helped him to come to grips with the power of forgiveness.. he realized that those he forgave were forgiven even though his feelings told him they were not. Many times I remember that when I forgive - feelings will eventually follow the act of forgiveness.

I am in awe of the resurrection Lord. It cause me to realize my need to forgive.

O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”

And they stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus is miraculously alive and, instead of appearing to the masses, he chooses to walk a seven mile stretch of road with two of his disciples. Now doesn't that sound like our Lord? And isn't the dialog so revealing about the disciples' mindset? They have resigned themselves to the idea that Jesus is dead and they have rejected angelic reports of his resurrection. They have given themselves over to all that is logical and explainable.

Such is the place that many find themselves today. What would Jesus say to many of us if he walked that stretch with us? Would our words reveal our trust in the visible and the logical? Would Jesus have to explain the scriptures to us and speak to us of things illogical and invisible? Would we hear what he had to say if it disagreed with our ideology and theology? Or would our hearts be open to the things that he would share with us?

I am often foolish Lord. I often rely on my senses instead of trusting you with all of my heart. Help me. Open my eyes and my ears. I do not want to be slow to believe.

Do not cling to me ... but go

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

What a scene! Movie writers could not have painted a more dramatic picture. What would it have been like to have witnessed the crucifixion and find yourself crying at the Lord's tomb a few days later. What would it have been like to find yourself so engulfed in grief that you did not recognize Jesus? What would it have been like to hear the Lord speak your name? And what would it have been like to fall down and embrace the feet of Christ? Simply Surreal!

Yet Jesus offers an alternate response to Mary and to us. He tells us that there is a time to linger and cling to him in worship but there is also a time to go. In a sense the Christian life is all about going after clinging. We do not know how long Mary hung on to Jesus' feet but it is suffice to say that she wanted to linger longer. But Jesus had plans for Mary. She, a woman, would be the very first to preach the good news of the resurrection of Christ.

Lord, teach me to go with the message that you have risen from the dead.

The Son of Man ... in the heart of the earth

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Little is written about the time between the cross and the resurrection. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians and spoke of Jesus leading captivity captive when he descended into the lower regions of the earth. There is much speculation about what that means. Some think that Jesus set righteous saints free from Sheol, the place of the dead. Some think that the captives that were set free were those living in bondage to the law of sin and death.

Such speculation is interesting but what I think about is how similar the experiences of Jesus and Jonah are. Both were alive during the experience - Jonah in the fish and Jesus in heaven. Both were missing and deemed dead and gone. They both needed a miracle to survive their experience. They both returned and had a message of hope for people under a sentence of death. And this is where we are today as we embrace, with much hope, the mystery of the tomb and of the time between the cross and resurrection.

Thank you for experiencing and tasting death for me Lord. I am in awe of you.

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!

It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun's light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.

This last utterance from the cross reminds me of these words that Jesus once said:
I lay down my life that I may take it up again.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.
Even at this very last moment of his life we are reminded that the son of God was not a victim of circumstances or of man's evil plans. At any point after his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane he could have chose another path for his life. Yet love compelled him to stay the course and freely offer his life for us. Love compelled him to stay committed to the words he prayed saying "Not my will but thine be done".

And since that final moment we have all been beating our breasts. Like the centurion, and those who watched at a distance, we have all been wondering how this could have happened to an innocent man. Perhaps it could have happened no other way? Maybe the whole spectacle took place to reveal the darkness of man and the brilliant light of God? At the very last moment Jesus completes his life of love as he offers his spirit to his Father.

I am unworthy of your love Lord. Thank you for loving me. Thank you for staying the course and showing me how to love. Thank you for the cross. Thank you for enduring the pain.