In his popular Bible commentary, John for Everyone, Tom Wright tells the story of a well-meaning dinner guest who insisted on helping with the dishes. The guest was a little distracted by enjoyable conversation, and he was more than a little careless as he spun around with a new, crystal water jug that the Wright family had recently received as a gift. Sure enough, he ran into someone turning the other direction, dropped the precious crystal jug, and broke it. He was devastated. The Wrights were not happy but tried their best to be gracious. The guest spent the rest of the evening apologizing.
A couple of weeks later, the same guest was visiting again, and after dinner, his hosts handed him a towel and said, “Would you like to help with the dishes?” The guest was amazed. He had let them down once. And they dared to ask him again? To trust him, again? He joyfully took the towel and joined his hosts in the kitchen.
Sunday, March 28, was the beginning of Holy Week, when we remember how Jesus suffered and died for the sins of the world. We also remember how Jesus’ friends let him down. After Jesus was arrested, Peter was accused of being one of Jesus’ followers, and three times he said, “I don’t know that man” (John 18:15-27). This is a time to ponder how we have been less than brave in following Jesus, too. We need help; in religious terms, we need a Savior.
On Easter, Christians celebrate that God raised Jesus from the dead. One of the wonderful stories in the gospel of John (21:15-19) is the story of the risen Christ sharing breakfast by the sea with some of his disciples. There, on the beach, he spoke to Simon Peter: “Do you love me?” Peter said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!” And Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” This happened three times: “Do you love me?” “Yes, Lord! You know I do!” “Then feed my lambs. Tend my sheep.”
Three times, Peter had denied even knowing Jesus. Now, three times, Peter had an opportunity to say, “Yes, Lord…” The wonder of this Easter season is that the Risen Lord is here with us, too, and he still gives us new beginnings.
There are many times we have not been faithful. We have made a mess of things, not loved our neighbors, put our own comfort before our care for God’s creation, neglected the poor, and not lived for Jesus.
Easter is a time to hear Jesus’ words again: “Do you love me?” Jesus forgives what is past and lets us begin anew. Easter is about a promise of new life in heaven, yet it is also about new life here. It’s a joy that comes from saying, “Yes, Lord… we love you.”
What will you do today with God’s Easter gift of grace?
(Bruce and Carolyn Gillette serve as Pastors at the First Presbyterian Union Church in Owego, N.Y.)