Summary: EASTER 3, YEAR C - Peter, do you love me? Explores Peter’s sense of shame and failure and how Christ’s call leds us all beyond our failure.
Do you remember the movie “Groundhog Day”? It was a movie about a TV weather man played by Bill Murry who has to go to Punxsatawney PA to make an news report on Punxsatawney Phil and his prediction for the coming of Spring. The character played byBill Murry is a terrible man. He’s self-centered, Pig headed, Obnoxious, just a down right jerk. The plot of the story is that as penance for his behavior the character has to repeat the same day over and over again, until finally he gets things right and life can then go on as it should. Have you ever wish that you could go back and redo a portion of your life? The chance to say or do something over again and again until you finally get it right. And if you couldn’t go back and correct your mistakes. Wouldn’t be nice if you could at least edit the problem parts out as if they never happened at all. When things are tough for me, I experience a longing to return to Vermont. My family lives there and the State holds some fond memories for me. I left Vermont in 1985 to go to Seminary to follow God’s call to ministry. After seminary there was Houlton ME for my first church, then Ft Drum NY as an Army chaplain during desert storm. From there it was to PA to serve as a hospital chaplain and then as pastor for the Millville Christian Church. And finally I arrived here, to New Hartford CT. And yet along my journey from Vermont to Connecticut, I have at times felt like cutting out all that has gone between there and here to go back and try it all again as if none of this had ever happened. Have you ever felt that way? Then welcome to the club, for at different times in our lives we have all followed Peter and this passage tells our story. Afterward, the gospel of John tells us, Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: “Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said, ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” Sound familiar? Isn’t this also the way Jesus first encountered Peter?
Peter, what are you doing here? We could understand your behavior if you had gone fishing right after Jesus’ crucifixion. At that point you would of had ever reason for returning to your old occupation. Jesus was dead, crucified for all the world to see. And the disciples were themselves in danger of being arrested. There would have been no reason for Peter to hang around Jerusalem. But ever reason to simply disappear into the remote countryside. To return to the life you had before Jesus came into the scene. But more than three days have passed Peter since that terrible day of death. And Christ has risen from the dead. He has been seen by the women in the garden. He even appeared to you and the other disciples in the upper room. And by showing you all his wounds He convinced even doubting Thomas that he was now alive. So why have you gone fishing Peter? There’s no earthly reason for you to be here Or is there? Impetuous Peter, your mouth makes claims your spirit cannot fulfill. Was it not you Peter who was the first to call Jesus the Christ? And was it not also you who first denied him, not once, but three times. You claimed you would die for the Christ, but in the end you ran just like the others. You were willing to attack others to defend Jesus, But unwilling to die yourself beside the Christ. All this weighs heavy upon your soul, doesn’t it Peter? All those high hopes of a wonderous future when you were with Jesus have come crashing down, and now, with no reason to go forward, You go back to that thing you know best.
And so you’ve gone fishing. Perhaps you think if you just drift away, go off and pretend it never happened. You could then forget what you have done and what you have become. So all night you have labored at a task you know so well. That would be bad enough, but to make matters worse, you cannot succeed at the thing to which you has resigned yourself. But like that first time you met Jesus, your nets return to you empty. Empty nets like your empty soul calling out to you. Telling you it’s too late to go back to what you were. What’s done is done, there’s no going back. But neither can you go forward as long as you bear this weight of shame. And now, after a hard night, you see someone waiting for you on the shore. When he calls to you he directs you to “throw the nets on the other side” and suddenly you have a boat load of fish. And you know, you know immediately who it is. Still your impetious self, you shout “It’s Jesus” and jump into the water and swim to meet your Lord. Then after a quiet breakfast, its time to really cut bait or fish. Christ asks you those soul piercing questions. Three times you had denied Him, and so three times He will ask you, Peter, do you love me? What is this Jesus, no words of condemnation? No cursing Peter for his denial. No asking him about his failure? Say something Jesus. Say something before Peter bursts his heart from the stress of his guilt. Jesus speaks, Peter, do you love me? Love, why are you talking about love? All I can think about is how badly I failed you. Yes I love you. “Then feed my sheep.”