Countdown to Liftoff – Day 7

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

In his letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul put the gospel in a nutshell:

  • Christ died
  • Christ was buried
  • Christ was raised on the third day
  • Christ did these things in accordance with the Scriptures

Unfortunately, Paul wasn’t on the scene for any of those momentous events. If he did witness any of it, Paul watched from a distance, as a Pharisee who became an enemy of the new sect called The Way. Paul wouldn’t enter the story until 33-34 A.D. The gospel was passed on to him from those who had been eyewitnesses.

I hear a bit of wistfulness in Paul’s words. Although he had an undeniable encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul missed out on those 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead. The Twelve got to touch Him, talk to Him, eat with Him. Peter even got a one-on-one meeting with Christ.

We can only speculate what that personal, intimate conversation was like. If Peter was going to resume leadership in the group, he needed to be built back up after his dismal denial. How gracious of Jesus to seek Peter out first and restore him in private.

Quiet moments, just between Jesus and us, still bring restoration. Setting aside some time to spend with Jesus alone should be of first importance to us as well. Years ago, I wrote a little song called “Quiet Time”.

It’s early in the morning and the house is very still.
I rise and wrap up in a shawl to ward against the chill.
And I tiptoe past the bedroom doors and softly go downstairs.
I pick up my coffee cup and find my favorite chair.

This is my quiet time, my precious quiet time.
I open up my heart; today I want to start
With a quiet time, for it’s here where I can find,
A peacefulness inside if I remember to abide.
All I need You will provide in this quiet time.

Soon the quiet will be gone, children’s voices will replace
My peaceful meditation before Your throne of grace.
And the day will once again begin with breakfast, books and chores.
But before this day gets started, here’s some time that’s only Yours.

This is my quiet time; Oh, Lord, renew my mind.
Grant me eyes to see Your perfect will for me
In this quiet time — how I love this quiet time.
Help me to be true to the task You’ve called me to,
But the strength must come from You in this quiet time.

“You are my place of quiet retreat.
I wait for Your Word to renew me.”
Psalm 119:114 – The Message

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 8

“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

Peter wasn’t enjoying this conversation. I get it. I don’t like it when someone asks me the same question three times in a row, either.

What did Peter expect Jesus to say?
“You really let Me down.”
“I told you this would happen.”
“I had high hopes for you, Simon son of John.”
“This colossal failure disqualifies you from future service.”

To which Peter was ready to reply:
“I’m sorry.”
“You were right.”
“I’m not your man.”
“Back to the boats for me.”

But nothing of the sort happened. There was no need to rehash the past. Peter had publicly denied Jesus three times, so Jesus gave Peter the chance to publicly declare his love three times. It was Peter’s path to healing from shame and bitter regret.

Jesus reinstated Peter’s position of leadership
in front of the other disciples.
Jesus restored Peter’s soul and then challenged him
to set his eyes on the work ahead.

Peter wasn’t being sent back to the boats to rebuild his fishing business.
He was being sent out into the world to build His Father’s Kingdom.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 9

“Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.'” John 21:16

Jesus asked a second time,
“Do you truly love (agape) me?”
Again Simon Peter replied,
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.”

I love my husband.
I love pizza.

English has only one word to describe feelings of affection, which can make things confusing. I don’t love my husband and pizza in the same way, but the language doesn’t provide me with different ways to express my emotion. When it comes to love, the Greek language has four words to our one.

  • Eros = Romantic love
  • Storge = Family love
  • Philia = Brotherly love
  • Agape = Divine love

Agape is the highest form of love. It is completely unselfish, sacrificial and unconditional. God is really good at agape love. People — not so much.

Peter must have carried a lot of shame from his public denial of Jesus. That harrowing night probably played over and over in his mind.

Three denials.
The rooster crowing.
Locking eyes with Jesus.
(“The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” Luke 22:61)
Running away into the night.
Bitter weeping.

He had a lowly view of himself and his ability to love with that God-like, perfect love. So Peter chose a different word to describe his love for Jesus — brotherly love. It was the best he could do at the moment.

Years later, Peter would write,
“Love each other deeply,
love covers over
a multitude of sins.”
(1 Peter 4:8)
This time he used “agape”.

He had a multitude of sins, but Jesus’ love covered them all.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 10

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.'” John 21:15

After breakfast, Jesus asked Peter to walk with Him for a bit.
This time Jesus didn’t call his disciple “Peter” (the Rock).
He called him “Simon son of John” — a rather formal title.
This was going to be a serious conversation.

Was Jesus going to bring up the time Peter tried to walk on water but sank? Or was this about the night Jesus stooped to wash Peter’s feet and he said, “No, you will never wash my feet”? Maybe Jesus was preparing to remind Peter of the chopping-off-the-ear incident in the Garden. All cringe-worthy memories.

But no, Jesus didn’t drudge up past failures.
He was focused on Peter’s future.

Jesus asked Simon, “Do you love (agape) Me more than these?”
Simon replied, “Yes Lord, you know that I love (phileo) you.”

We don’t know if Jesus was pointing to the 153 fish or the other disciples by the fire, but either way, Simon Peter made no grandiose statement. (“Even if all fall away on account of You, I never will.” Matt. 26:33). He kept his answer short and full of humility, admitting that his capacity to love wasn’t at the agape level. But it was enough and it was a good place to start. Jesus could use a humble man who had a heart of phileo love.

Jesus was re-making Peter,
putting him back together, giving him a fresh start,
and changing him from a fisher of men to a feeder of lambs.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 11

“Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.” John 21:12-13

Always the good host,
Jesus invited His friends to the breakfast table
and then served them.

It seems that Jesus had to urge the men to join Him.
“Come on, I made breakfast.
Come! Yes, all of you!
Sit down. Let’s eat!”

Perhaps they were dealing with feelings of guilt.

Did Peter sit by the fire on the beach and remember how he stood and warmed himself when he denied knowing Jesus? Peter wept bitterly then. Were tears in his eyes now?

Did Thomas feel a bit embarrassed about his demand for proof? He questioned then. Did that seem silly now, with Jesus obviously alive?

All the others ran away in the Garden, when their Rabbi was arrested. Were they ashamed that they checked out for the crucifixion and then didn’t even have the guts to come out of hiding to help bury Him?

The Teacher was concerned about His students. Jesus knew that the way to break through all the messiness was to bid them come and share a meal. He put them at ease, they let down their guard. Healing could begin.

Some issues had to be dealt with,
but first —
a banquet on the beach,
breakfast with the boys,
bread for all the brothers.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 12

“Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.” John 21:10-11

Jesus provided the great nets full of fish,
but still asked the disciples to bring something to the table.
God will generously supply what we need,
not so we can hoard it,
but to use His provision for the good of the body.

153 large fish.
It’s a curious detail.
Who counted them all?

Was it one of the fishermen, James or John, incredulous at the record haul? Or Thomas, needing to know the exact number to believe it? Or Nathanael, who thought, “Can anything this good come from this lake?” Or was it Matthew, one of the “other disciples”, who couldn’t resist counting and categorizing and recording numbers?

Three years earlier, the miraculous catch
began to break the nets and sink the boats.
Not this time.
Jesus was giving His “fishers of men” a glimpse of the future.
The Word would be cast out to the nations
and it would not come back empty.
The harvest would be plentiful, beyond count, from the ends of the earth.
The unsinkable, unbreakable Kingdom had come.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 13

“The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” John 21:8-9

Jesus cooked up breakfast on the beach for the boys.
In fact, He had the very thing the disciples had spent all night trying to get.
Except these fish were cleaned, gutted, grilled and ready to enjoy.
Plus bread.

PB and I are attempting to do some landscaping work in the front of our house. Every professional landscaper is booked into 2023, it seems, so we are stumbling and bumbling our way through the project. We have been driving around the neighborhood, looking at other front yards. Sometimes we roll down the window and yell out to the homeowner, “What’s the name of that tree?” We wander around garden centers, wishing someone would just tell us what to buy. We’ve spent weeks trying to figure out what zone we are in and why that matters.

We are not good at this.

Let me re-phrase that.

I am not good at this.

PB is doing all the real work,
but I give him lots of encouragement from the front porch.

On the advise of the guy at the local nursery, we bought an Autumn Blaze Pear Tree and it was delivered this week. Luckily for us, the owner of the landscape place was the deliverer. Actually, he was our Deliverer.

He took one look at our blank slate of a front yard and started throwing out the Latin names of species of plants and flora like a Roman orator. PB pulled out his phone and started recording every word. I grabbed a pen and paper and started taking notes.

He took one look at our blank stares and realized we were in over our heads. So, bless his heart, he told us exactly what to buy and where to plant it and how to take care of it. He designed a landscape plan and marked it out with spray paint. He did for us in half an hour what we had been struggling to make sense of for weeks.

Plus, we made a new friend.

PB and I
(and the fish-less fishermen on Lake Galilee)
would do well to stop striving
and connect with the right person.
Like the Creator of the Universe.
He’s already got what we try so hard to come up with on our own.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 14

“He said, ‘Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.’ When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord,’ he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.” John 21:6-7

Peter must have thought he was having deja vu.

Three years before, Simon Peter had fished all night with no success.
Jesus had told him to go back out and cast in the deep waters.
That day, the haul was so big it began to sink their boats.

Three years before, Simon Peter had told Jesus,
“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.”

This time Peter jumped in and got to Jesus as fast as he could.
He came splashing and gasping up onto the beach
while the others struggled to bring the boat ashore.

Peter didn’t really care about the fish.
Once you’re a fisher of men,
it’s hard to be satisfied with fish.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 15

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.” John 21:4-5

Not one bite, all night long.
Every single time they pulled in the heavy nets,
they were empty.

That must have been frustrating for those professional fishermen.
Maybe returning to their former jobs wasn’t a good idea after all.

Then a voice on shore called out, “Hey boys, catch anything?”
It’s hard for a boat full of men to admit that something isn’t working.
A dejected and annoyed “no” carried across the water.

They didn’t know what was coming next.
Jesus had only appeared to them in Jerusalem.
They thought they were beyond His reach up north.
Their futures were unclear.
Everything was confusing.
But Jesus was about to change all that.

If they had been successful that night,
in their own strength and striving,
they might never have gone back to ministry.

Lack of success doesn’t always mean we’re failing.
Sometimes it just means we’re going the wrong direction.

Countdown to Liftoff – Day 16

“Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. ‘I’m going out to fish,’ Simon Peter told them, and they said ‘We’ll go with you.’ So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” John 21:1-3

Years ago, one of our children spent an extended time in Pediatric ICU. Grandpa and Grandma took care of our other three youngsters, bless their hearts, so PB and I could stay by the bedside of our gravely ill daughter. Finally, after a week or two, I was strongly encouraged to go home for a night. The other kids were missing their mama.

I remember standing at the kitchen sink doing dishes (we didn’t have a dishwasher) and thinking, “This feels so good.” My hands in the warm water, the smell of soap bubbles, the familiar view from the window. A tedious chore any other day, but on this day, washing dishes was such a comfort, a relief, a sense of normal. For those few minutes I could pretend life was the back to the same old routines.

It seems the men from Galilee needed a break from the crowded city of Jerusalem. They had been holed up together for too long. Peter was itching to do something. So seven of them took the four day walk north, perhaps to check on things at home. It must have been a balm to their souls to smell that sea air and hear the ripple of water on the shore. Considering the strangely wonderful but deeply unnerving events following Jesus’ resurrection, it probably felt good to go somewhere familiar and do something normal.

Back in the boat.
Setting the sails.
Throwing out nets.
Sweating in the sun.
Talking to each other.
“Should we go back to fishing for fish
instead of men?”
Jesus was about to show up again and answer that question.

Once you encounter the Savior,
you can’t really go back.