Acts 25: 13B-21
King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him. I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the charge. So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor.”
Psalm 103: 1-2, 11-12, 19-20
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far he removes our transgressions from us.
The Lord has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his bidding
John 21: 15-19
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
How far are the east and the west from each other? When I imagine this, I picture the great expanse of the ocean looking as far as I can in each direction until I cannot see any farther. Each end is far away and never meeting. If one were to travel all around the earth in the same direction, eventually they would find themselves traveling east in what once was the west. Yet in order to change directions, all one has to do is simply turn around.
When God brings us out of transgression and into life with Him, He changes the course of our journey and orients us back towards Himself. For us, that simple act of turning around breaks the bond of sin and death and God completely removes us from it.
Jesus calls Peter by his former name, Simon, to indicate that there is has been a severing in their relationship. Peter had denied Jesus three times. So Christ reconciles that by asking him three times to reinstate his love and devotion. This was a moment for Peter when his direction was altered by the profession of his tongue and the grace of Jesus. It’s only fitting then, that Jesus would follow up Peter's recommitment to faith with the invitation, “follow me." Peter walks steadfastly into an ever growing relationship with Jesus, and God separates the east from the west.
The reality of following Jesus is life that gives life. Jesus’ invitation to Peter to be back in relationship with Him didn’t stop between the two of them. The second part of Christ’s invitation was for Peter to “feed His sheep”, or protect, nurture, guide, and provide for the body of believers. Peter was called by God to let his devotion pour out into the souls of those whom Jesus also loves. What we know about our God, is that salvation is meant for all people. So His instructions to Peter are both for those already committed to Jesus, as well as to the lost sheep. This calling broadens the gap of the “east and the west” even more as we see Peter go from a place of publicly denying relation with Jesus, to publicly inviting others into relation with Jesus.
This is the invitation that the Lord has for us today. He doesn’t really care what sins we’ve committed in the past. All He cares about is that we turn around and let His grace remove us completely from the pain and turmoil of life without Him. From there, He longs to fulfill our faith by bringing others into community with us through conversion and holy community. The grace, promises, and love of the Lord and good and they are there for the taking. Today, don’t hesitate to change directions and receive the love of Jesus.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, I am heartily sorry for the ways that I have offended you and turned away from you. Lord I repent of my wrong doings as they hurt you, hurt me, and hurt those around me. By your grace I resolve to never do them again. Today I give my life back to you and receive your love, truth, and grace for me. I love you Lord and embrace you anew today!