Do you love me?
Today was shorter than yesterday, yet we still managed to cover a lot of territory.
Of all the apostles, the one I have always related to most is Simon Peter. His struggle of faith was never hidden, and his modulating degrees of commitment were so often vocalized in ways that remind me of my own tendencies to sometimes speak before I think. It was Simon, remember, that was the first to correctly identify Jesus as the Messiah in the city of Caesarea Philippi. (You can read that story in Matthew 16). The answer was in response to Jesus’ question to the disciples: “Who do you say I am?” Standing today at that site brought this story to life in an incredibly vivid way. Caesarea Philippi was built around a beautiful spring that comes gushing out of a giant wall of rock. It is so awe-inspiring, that in Jesus’ day the Romans had carved out numerous shrines to pagan gods, making it a popular place of worship. The gaping cave at the base of the cliff was believed by many to be the gateway to Hades. It was here, in the midst of these various shrines showcasing the diversity of religious viewpoints and practices that Jesus asked his disciples what they believed about him. How powerful to think that in our own time of theological confusion, religious diversity, and various affections tugging at our own souls that Jesus still begs the same question of us! Simon’s reward for identifying Jesus as Messiah was that he was given a new name: Peter (Rock).
And on this Rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. Those powerful words echoed in my mind today as the sound of rushing water filled the space around me, and the rocky cliff towered above.
Yes, Peter knew who Jesus was. And yet, Peter, like all of us, struggled to find the faith necessary to follow when the journey grew difficult. You probably recall that it was also Peter who denied Jesus three times while warming himself by a charcoal fire as Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin.
His is a story of redemption. His story is one that points to Jesus’ relentless commitment to walking with us on our own faith journey, not being one to be quick to give up on us, but to walk with us, whispering words of encouragement along the way. Our day began standing on the beach where Peter encountered the risen Christ.
He was cooking fish. On a charcoal fire.
“Peter, do you love me?”
“Then feed my lambs.”
Whatever you are walking through today - whatever doubts you may have, whatever struggles are tempting you to give up, remember that the grace offered to Peter is offered to each of us. Jesus will never stop asking us who it is we believe him to be. Jesus will never stop asking us to declare our love for him. And until we draw our final breath, he will be there, waiting for us...hoping for us, to sit and eat with our Savior.