What did you eat for breakfast this morning? Bacon and eggs? Avocado toast? Cereal? Whatever it was, I bet it wasn’t fish cooked over a campfire. One of my favorite stories in scripture is that of the disciples having a breakfast of fish on the beach with the risen Christ. It’s a story full of grace and forgiveness and gives us a set of directions on how to follow the one whom we can no longer see.
We have all played the age-old game of follow the leader as children. The game is fairly simple. You simply follow the direction, movement and sometimes words of the leader. As long as you can see the leader, or at least the person in front of you who can see the leader – you are golden. What happens when you can no longer see the leader? Well, then the once simple game becomes nearly impossible. How can you follow someone you cannot see?
Jesus’ disciples must have felt a little like this. When Jesus was with them on earth they knew how to follow him. They knew where to go, what to do and what to say. They knew how to fill their days. When Jesus was crucified, they no longer knew how to follow him. Lost without their leader, they went back to their roots, to the water.
I think that sometimes we do this too. Sometimes we are the ones in the boat not sure what to do next. Other times we are so busy doing the work of life, that it’s hard to figure out how to be a disciple. There are so many things and people to follow, so many things clamoring for our attention, our energy and our time. I was asked this week “How do we balance (or even attempt) Discipleship with the demands of “life”?
I think we find our answer in the words and actions of Jesus on that beach. When Jesus found them on the boat, he didn’t fuss at them for being distracted, or not doing the work that he had prepared them to do. Instead, he invited them to breakfast. He sat down, shared a meal with them and while they were eating, he entered into conversation. I am sure there were many conversations around that campfire but the one we get to listen in on is between the risen Christ and Peter. Jesus offers Peter grace and forgiveness that is unrivaled. Just as Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asks Peter three times ‘do you love me?’ Peter’s response of ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you’ was heart felt and genuine and quite likely a plea not only for forgiveness, but a plea for an answer to a bigger question. How to go on now that Jesus would not be there to physically guide him along this journey of faith and discipleship. Jesus didn’t ask the question three times to condemn Peter but rather as an offer of grace and a reassurance of forgiveness. At every question and reply Jesus gave Peter an instruction meant not only for him but for all of the disciples and for all of us.
Jesus instructions were ‘Feed my sheep, tend my lambs, and follow me’. This. This is what we should strive for as we seek to enter into discipleship ourselves. Look around, look at those around you near and far. How can you, how can we take better care of those around us be they family, friends or strangers? How can we offer not only physical food, shelter and clothing to those in need but also love, acceptance, forgiveness and grace? How can we show and share the love of Christ in what we do and say in our everyday lives? I think this is the following Christ has called us to.
And when we fall short? Rest in the assurance that our God is a God of first, second and third chances. We just have to have the courage to strap on our sandals and try again. Now if you will excuse me, I think I’ll go make a tuna fish sandwich and remind myself that forgiveness, grace and encouragement are always on the menu.