Joseph and Nicodemus had buried Jesus. So when Mary came and told us what she had seen and heard, John and I raced to see for ourselves.
Was it possible? Would even death bow before my friend?
When we finally saw Him with our eyes, you've never seen a room ignite with more joy or hope. Emotionally it was a tempest, from the betrayal of my denials and guilt to the hope that He could somehow be alive again, to sadness and confusion as to where I stood. There was a lot I still didn't understand. Still, it was so good to see Him again. Everything would be ok, as long as He was with us.
Days turned into weeks and our hope grew into a sense of building expectation. Something was coming, we could feel it in our bones, but it wasn't clear what or when. I was restless and I wanted to fish. I wanted to clear my head and lose myself in the rhythm of the familiar. John and a few others decided to join me.
We didn't catch anything that night and in a private joke of fate, a figure in the distance asked if we had caught any fish. We told him we hadn't as he suggested we put our nets to the other side of the boat. It wasn't lost on any of us. We had been here before.
When the fish struck, John voiced what we were all thinking. It was Him and I was through waiting. I was all done with uncertainty and hesitation. I leapt into the cool water and swam to shore as the weight of the moment continued to build. Eating fish and bread in silence, we simply enjoyed the warmth of the morning.
When we had finished eating, He spoke to me.
"Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
The word for love He used was agapeo, the divine love that knows no bounds. If He had asked me, even a few days ago, I would have boldly said yes to that one. But I had stumbled, and I knew that I didn't love Him like that. My voice wavered and tears came unbidden to my eyes. Lord, you know that I love you. But it was phileo, the deep and authentic and cautious love of a friend.
"Feed my lambs."
Again He said, "Simon son of John, do you truly agapeo me?"
Agapeo. I couldn't bring myself to say it back to Him. I love You as a dearest friend. I love You more than anything. But I don't love You divinely; my denial of You is proof enough. I love You, but I am painfully aware that I'm not the man You want me to be.
Jesus' response came again, "Take care of my sheep."
He asked a third time, "Simon son of John, do you phileo me?"
He used the word phileo, and it broke my heart. I don't know if it was because I wanted so badly to participate in that divine love, or if it was just the nature of affirming Him three times to unmake my threefold denial. Either way, it was the faithful wounding of a friend and not the cruel jab of revenge. God meets us where we are, to lead us where He wants us to go. So be it.
Lord, You know all things. You know that I phileo You.
He smiled and touched my arm, "Feed my sheep." And He went on to speak of things to come. His love brought me back to myself. I could feel His forgiveness and restoration. I could feel the calling of His purpose. I felt the focus of being exactly where I needed to be finally settle into my heart and mind, even my very soul.
God has called me to speak His words to this generation. I know He is with me, that He knows me better than I know myself, that He has prepared me for this time. I will speak where I was silent. I will move with Him, instead of acting impetuously on my own. I am His completely, no longer a fisherman ... but a shepherd for His people and His presence.
It wasn't the death of a dream. It was just the beginning.
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?"
Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call." With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation."
Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day" (Acts 2:36-41).