7 June 2019
King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’
Jesus showed himself to his disciples, and after they had eaten he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt round you
and take you where you would rather not go.’
In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’
Do you love me?
Imagine this for a moment – you did something so unforgivable and uncharitable to a very close friend of yours. Be it in a moment of weakness or a very calculated act on your part. How would your friend feel about your betrayal? Hurt, anger or sorrow? Could this friend forgive you? And can you ever forgive yourself for what you have done? Would you shy away from your friend in shame, unable to face him? Or would you push it aside, hoping that time would heal this wound you inflicted? Or are you so convinced that your act was justified.
Now imagine your friend, sometime later, in your most lost, despondent state, preparing breakfast for you. He asked how you are doing in the most loving gentle way. At first you are unable to recognise him, but by that one simple loving act, you recognised him – because this was the most recognisable characteristic of your friend – one who is ever ready to love and forgive you. You’d feel awful right?
This is the story of Peter. The last time they encountered each other was a sad occasion – Peter, betrayed Jesus 3 times. Yet after his death, the resurrected Jesus showed himself to his friends 3 times. And specifically to the one who betrayed him, Jesus forgave and loved him. Jesus takes Peter aside from the others and gives him the opportunity to affirm a threefold pledge of his love. The one, supreme condition for Christ to renew Peter’s commission to tend his sheep is Peter’s love for Jesus.
Recently, I found myself too in the position of Jesus. I had been hurt by an act of an individual. The breach of trust was so painful, so sorrowful, so shocking. To cope, I vowed never to come face to face with this person again. It was a pain I nursed for a few years. Over these years, I showed the classic symptoms of grief – irritable, numbness, bitterness, detachment, preoccupation of the loss, and the inability to show or experience joy. Try as I might to be Christ-like, I could not bring myself to forgive this person. Then one day, out of the blue, this person came to me and apologized so profusely. I was caught off-guard and didn’t know how to react. Days later, I was still holding onto the hurt and felt guilty for being un-Christ like.
It is so much easier to hold on to anger and resentment. But to love someone who has betrayed you – is simply too hard. God, in his mercy and grace, had pushed me to this comfortable space. I am learning that it’s only with God’s grace, that we can do what is deemed impossible.
Jesus too experienced betrayal. Yet He forgave and loved so much. He set an example for us. That is no doubt a tough act to follow. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” (Luke 17:3-4). However, to follow Jesus is to love. Love is the one, supreme condition for each of us who aspires to be an apostle. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favour and a good name in the sight of God and man – (Proverbs 3:3-4). Our risen Lord gives us the opportunity again and again to love. If we have drifted away, due to whatever circumstance in life – be it hurt, betrayal or simply lack of interest. Jesus is asking us too today ‘Do you love me?’ Do you hear this invitation? Can we not live in the past, but live in the here and now? Live with love.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)
Prayer: Jesus, thank you for being an example of love. Having received your mercy, teach us Lord to be compassionate and forgiving to others.
Thanksgiving: Thank you for your mercy, in showing compassion and love to us for the many times we betrayed you.