A few words from my Easter sermon….
My favorite passage of the Resurrection event is when Jesus makes the disciples breakfast! We hear of Jesus healing, praying and ministering to many people all over the country. He loved to be with the people. He ate with them, played with them and prayed with them. In this last event we are taken to the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were fishing. They had been out all night long and caught nothing. I am sure they were tired and cold and hungry. When the sun started to come up they looked at the beach and there they saw a man. The man says: “Friends, have you caught any fish?? They said “No.” He said, throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will get plenty of fish!”
So they did what he said and they caught a huge haul of fish-so many that they couldn’t pull the net in. Suddenly John realized who was talking to them! It was Jesus! He said to Peter: ‘ It is the Lord!!!”
When Peter heard this, he put his tunic on and he jumped out of the boat and into the water, splashing and dashing to the shore. I can see him now, can’t you? Lunging and reaching and huffing and puffing to get to his Lord. After all- it had been a few days earlier that he had denied him three times-even after he had told Jesus he was ready to die for him! He couldn’t do it. If he’s anything like me, he was saying “ I’m a failure, a loser, a bumbling idiot. I really do you love you Jesus, I just don’t know what happened.”
Jesus didn’t say anything like what we say to ourselves- did he? He didn’t call names and he didn’t point fingers. What he did do was draw Peter closer. He told Peter to bring him some fish so he did. Then Jesus cooked them all breakfast and he said,
“ Now come and have some breakfast!”
So they did. Food and fellowship. We all love it, don’t we? We did it this morning, didn’t we? We served one another just as Jesus served the disciples. He served them bread and fish and ate his last meal on earth beside a charcoal fire. This was a fire of passion.
The greek word for charcoal is anthrakia-meaning anthracite in English. It means : a heap of burning coals. It is only found twice in the NT-both in the gospel of John. Anthracite-or charcoal has high luster. Luster means brilliance, gloss and radiance. Charcoal has the highest carbon content and very few impurities. It burns with a smokeless blue flame at a very high temperature.
The first fire Peter was at was also charcoal. It was the fire of denial. He stood with the soldiers outside the gate and lied to the woman who said, “ aren’t you a disciple? ” His response was NO. This fire warm to his skin, but not to his heart. He lost his passion in this moment. Maybe he was scared, or just a coward. I don’t know.
Then here comes Jesus, building a fire of forgiveness for Peter. WOW. Like gold that is being refined by fire, Peter’s impurities were being burned away by this second fire of passion. It is here that Jesus looks at Peter , over breakfast of bread and fish, and he says,
“ Do you love me?”
Not once, but three times.
Each time cancelling out a previous denial and bringing forgiveness.
Forgiveness is like salve to the soul. When we forgive others-something happens inside of us. It is surprising and unexpected. The salve brings healing and wholeness and only Jesus can do that. He IS the salve. The other person may never change, but something happens inside of us and we are changed from the inside out. We cannot convict others to change, but we can pray for the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and change and then wait for the Lord to perform the work. We can’t do it for them, but we can for ourselves.
Like Jesus, our own personal pains turn to prayers and our hurts begin to heal and God shows us the pain that He carries for His children by giving us greater discernment. It heightens in our spiritual ears, eyes and hearts and we begin to discern what is really going on. Pain comes from people in so many ways that often they do not hear it, see it or even realize it. We can learn to be more like Jesus and take the gentle, quiet approach and go to our Father in prayer.
Jesus was a prayer warrior.
Remember what he said on the cross?
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.”
Jesus used the last of His energy and His life giving breath to pray for us. He prayed for us through his own pain and suffering- do we really understand that depth of His love for His Father? It is incomprehensible, isn’t it?
He didn’t say what others might have wanted to say, “ what rotten people you are..” Instead- He offered mercy and He prayed some of His last, excruciating breaths to His Father in heaven and asked for forgiveness for US!!!
Like Peter, sometimes we have no idea what we are doing and we can’t see the error of our ways. But, Jesus can-and He intercedes for US! Why? Because He loves us and He calls us to love others in the same way.
Hebrews says: 7:24- 25 says that But Jesus remains a priest forever; his priesthood will never end. Therefore-he is able, once and forever to save everyone who comes to God through him. “He lives forever to plead with God on their behalf.”
Jesus is pleading for you and for I.
How beautiful is that?
So, this is the example that he has left us with and one that we should follow. We all become like Jesus when we choose to be intercessors for other people. I believe that one day we will get a glimpse of all of those people who have interceded for each of us and it will give us great joy and wonderment! God is like that! His mercies are new everyday and 3 days after the death of His Son, we are given the greatest mercy of all!
My husband has been a wonderful example of who Jesus is to me. He is gentle and kind and merciful with everyone. I can remember when I was depressed many years ago. Depression of any kind can kill a soul if it’s not taken care of. I had post-partum depression and had no idea what was wrong with me-just that I was an angry, complaining, negative, argumentative, jealous, resentful, and even envious and controlling person. I had to be right all the time and and have the last word on everything. I hated what I felt inside but didn’t know what was going in inside of me. I would throw things, slam doors and just have little fits of rage. Things had to be “just so” and he couldn’t even come home without me yelling about where he put things. There was a fire raging inside of me that I could not control. I can remember him telling me that he hated coming home from work because I was such a witch, never knowing what I would do or say. ( Of course he told me that after I began medication and began to get well again. Praise the Lord for doctors and medicine! ) He never argued with me, he never told me how hateful I was or what I was doing to him. He retreated and He waited and he offered up mercy in his silent prayers to God. It was during a bible study that I broke down and a friend of mine gently took me aside and helped me get the help I needed. She loved me through it and she prayed with me and encouraged me to get to the doctor. She saw it, but never said it until that day. She was wise- she knew I had to be ready to hear it. She has been another example of Jesus to me by waiting and praying and letting God do the leading through a bible study. Isn’t God amazing? I think He is.
Today I am depression free and off of all medication. I am not that person that I was. God has healed and made me whole again through a series of events and an alignment of His people. I thank God for husbands who have gentle and kind hearts and who offer up prayers in their own quiet way. I praise God for these things and thank Him for forgiveness, mercy and grace!
We have been married for 27 years and thankfully, only a few of them have been really bad. God brings goodness out of the bad things and He has given us a strong, loving, supportive relationship with each other. I thank God for a soulmate who honors his wife and for a God who heals. Our Jehovah Rapha-the Great Healer in the Heavenlies is waiting for your prayers!
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. I have seen it happening all over the place. There is new life, new joy, and a healing and wholeness that is happening! One thing I have learned, as a pastor, is to be kind, gentle, quiet and to spend much time in prayer. I am to send up a prayer before speaking and to choose my words wisely. It takes practice!
There is a saying that goes like:
“Today will never come again, be a blessing be a friend, encourage someone, take time to care, let your words heal and not wound.”
I have also learned that the hurting person needs time to process the pain, and come to terms with the truth and then have a willing heart to let go of the pain and to forgive first themselves and then others. It’s between them and God and God knows the heart. God has allowed me to see forgiveness happening again and again and again. People are rising from the ashes of pain and turning into new and beautiful creations! It is amazing to watch the plan of God unfold-just as it was for Peter and like Peter- when you have lived it-you want to spend your life giving to others what God has given to you. Unspeakable love! He draws us near to His fiery heart and He re-kindles our passion with the ultimate forgiveness-the one that brings life eternal. He touches His finger to our heart and lights us up!
Peter’s fire of denial and fire of forgiveness come together to remind us that we are human and that God loves us no matter what we have done, said, denied, fumbled or bumbled. Only He can make us perfect. Peter went on to become the charcoal in the fire- he was radiant and brilliant and bold for Christ. He spent his life drawing people to the fire that burned in his own heart. He lived it, preached it, and died for it.
Just as Jesus called Peter to the fire, He draws us near in sweet fellowship and in communion with Himself and he says, “ do you love me?
“ Feed my lambs.
“do you love me?
Then care for my sheep.”
“ do you love me?
Then feed my sheep.”
and ” follow me.”
Jesus is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE and when you follow HIM you will never go wrong.
This little lamb was given to me after this week’s sermon and it will always carry a special place in my heart-one of unconditional, uncontainable, magnificent, amazing love of and for God and His children.
Thank you Lord, for drawing us ever nearer to Your heart…love you so….