Three Times Forgiven

Dear friends,

This Sunday we’ll wrap up our Darkest Before Dawn worship series with a miracle that is perhaps the greatest of miracles — that of a restored life — made whole by amazing grace. We don’t know where this took place, but centuries ago Christians chose a flat rock on the shore of the Sea of Galilee not far from the town of Capernaum. At that spot they built a small church — a chapel really — and the rock is the communion table for the church.

Tradition said that it was on that rock, following his death and resurrection, that the Risen Christ built a charcoal fire and cooked breakfast. Simon Peter was wracked with guilt. As he warmed himself by a charcoal fire in the courtyard of the High Priest, he had denied even knowing Jesus. Not once, but three times. It was a horrible memory. He had sworn that he would never deny Jesus, but Jesus had told him that he would deny him not once, but three times before the rooster crowed. It happened just as Jesus said.

That rock on the shore of the lake is a sacred place because Christ went to great lengths to make the setting just right: a charcoal fire (this kind of fire is mentioned only twice in the New Testament — once when Peter denied Jesus and here on the lakeshore), roosters crowing as the sun is beginning to rise, and the opportunity to say three times that he loved Christ.

John’s gospel says that Simon Peter and the disciples with him fished all night and caught nothing. Simon Peter labored under his heavy burden of guilt through that darkness, but dawn followed. The Risen Christ came to him in just the way he needed, offering forgiveness and a new beginning.

(You can read this whole story of redemption in both John 18:15-27 and John 21:1-17.)

If you’ve ever labored under a burden of guilt — either because of something you did, didn’t do, or didn’t mean to do — you may be familiar with that crushing feeling that you’ve ruined everything. The Good News that we celebrate Sunday after Sunday is that God’s grace is more than enough to provide forgiveness and a new beginning in just the way you need.

What guilt are you carrying with you? Are you yearning for forgiveness and restoration? I look forward to exploring these turning point ideas with you this Sunday in our Sanctuary Worship.

Grace and Peace,

Dr. Tim Bruster
Senior Pastor

John 21:1-17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,[a] Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 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.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to 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 there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards[b] off.
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 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.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter felt hurt 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.

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