The Gospel and Baseball

The Gospel and Baseball

John 21:15-19 (CSB)

15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John,[g] do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” “Feed my lambs,” he told him.

16 A second time he asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” “Shepherd my sheep,” he told him.

17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said.

18 “Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.” 19 He said this to indicate by what kind of death Peter would glorify God. After saying this, he told him, “Follow me.”

Do you love me?

In this memorable interaction between Peter and Jesus, we see a moment of restoration. It is not random that Jesus asks Peter three times the question: "Do you love me?"

The scene is set up with a crucial detail that might at first look like a throw away detail...

John 21:9 (CSB) When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there.

When was the last time Peter was keeping warm by a charcoal fire? You can find it in John 18, when Jesus was on trial. Peter was watching and keeping warm by a charcoal fire. Peter would smell this charcoal fire on the shore and reminisce of just days prior when he did the unthinkable: denying his Lord... THREE TIMES!

I’m sure he asked himself thousands of times: “Why did I do that?” He was afraid. But who wouldn’t be? That was a terrifying situation. Jesus was unjustly arrested, brutally beaten, and soon to be condemned to die the horrifying death on the cross. Peter was in shock and self-preservation mode!

So, the resurrection of Jesus brought Peter the ultimate cocktail of feelings as he had to face the fact that he was not much better than Judas. Judas may have betrayed Jesus, but Peter denied him and abandoned him during his hour of greatest trial.

a fire burning in the dark with lots of flames

Seriously, do you really love me?

Do you think it was any coincidence Jesus lit a charcoal fire and had breakfast ready for Peter? What is he doing? Jesus is going straight for the pain. He is cutting straight to the heart. He is confronting what is eating away at Peter.

Not even the resurrection itself could wave a magic wand and eliminate that memory for Peter. Nothing could…

… except facing it head-on… on the shore… with a charcoal fire… looking into the eyes of the risen Jesus.

Jesus targets the heart of the matter so he can do a work of restoration in us that otherwise couldn’t happen by ignoring it.

Could Jesus have forgiven Peter silently and never brought up the elephant in the room? Sure! But this was not something Jesus needed… this is something Peter needed… this is something we need.

John 21:17 (CSB) He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” … [Peter] said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said.

I love the honesty of this conversation. Jesus DOES know all things, and yet, Jesus puts us in positions where we have to vocalize it. But this isn’t meant to beat Peter up or beat us up.

Jesus loves Peter. Jesus forgives Peter. Jesus wants to restore Peter to play a role in his Easter-initiated mission! But it all boils down to love. With each question: “Do you love me?” Jesus is reversing Peter’s denial and converting it to devotion.

Three strikes, but maybe you really do love me anyway 🤷🏼‍♂️

There is a rule in Baseball: "Three strikes you’re out," which is how we feel at times, right? But Jesus takes our strikes and points to the stripes and scars of his sacrifice and says: "You're not out. You're safe. The foot of the cross is your homebase! You're restored! Let's move forward!"

We are quick to count ourselves out and bench ourselves when God is far more willing to acquit our sin, coach our inadequacies, and call us forward into the purpose he has for us!

While God doesn’t condone my sin, he doesn’t condemn me. Why? Because he covered my sin on the cross and I have placed my trust in that. And I am walking with a new Spirit (Holy Spirit) and a new attitude toward sin. And so, he doesn’t want me to put myself in the penalty box. When I mess up what he wants is for me to own it, receive his forgiveness, perhaps even let him coach me so I can learn from it, and then move forward!

Let go, and let God love you back.

One of the hardest things to do–but is a sign of maturing in the faith–is letting the love of God minister to you when you royally blow it. Again, not to make light of sin, but to actually direct your attention back to God who is eager to forgive and restore. Jesus is eager to restore each of us. Our restoration is making us ready for our role in God’s plan! A restored life looks like a renewed commitment to follow Jesus.

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