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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Forgiveness at Our Own Coal Fire

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17. NIV).

One morning following the Resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee. The night before Peter had decided to go fishing, and a few of the others had followed him. They had been at it all night with no luck. Jesus now calls to them to throw the net over the other side of the boat, and the net is immediately full. Dragging their fish ashore, they suddenly recognize that it is their Master who has instructed them. As Jesus stands beside a coal fire in the cool morning air, they realize He has prepared them a breakfast of fish and bread.

Try to picture what happens after breakfast. Jesus and Peter are sitting around the fire to keep warm The others must have left, because this is a time for Peter and Jesus alone. Jesus looks into his eyes, and asks Peter if He loves him. He asks him three times, and Peter says he loves Jesus three times. Jesus tells him three times to feed his sheep–to reach others in His name. Jesus knows that Peter's mind is consumed with his denial and failure, and that Peter can't think of feeding the sheep. But that is the mission, and Peter needs to let go of his feelings of unworthiness and failure.

Jesus lovingly takes Peter back to the point of his three-time denial, and tells him it doesn’t matter now. It is no mistake that Peter and Jesus are by a coal fire at this moment. Peter is surely remembering the coal fire where he denied Jesus. But Jesus is saying the it doesn't matter and to stop dwelling on it. “Move on and feed the sheep, Peter,” He says. “If you love me, don’t allow feelings of unworthiness and or failures to stop you.” Jesus longs to take each one of us to the point of our denial—of our failure, and longs for us to know we are healed because of His sacrifice and Resurrection. “Move on in me,” He says to you and to me. 

God was able to mold Peter into a strong leader who would be able to feed His sheep. In his time of faithlessness and failure, Peter experienced his fallen state, only to later experience the power of forgiveness that brings God's power. Your failures do not define who you are in Christ. He defines who you are. You can only realize your potential when you understand He is stronger than your own limitations. You can only experience His mercy and grace when your failure has broken your heart and prepared it to receive His forgiveness. You can only understand God's power in your life when you have learned your own weakness, and submitted all of it to God. Like Peter we are called to share the love of Jesus Christ with His sheep. The depths of the love of God can only be shared by those who have been saved from the depths of their own failure. Ask Him to take all of your failures and your feelings of unworthiness. There by your own coal fire, you will discover the mercy and grace that sets you free.

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