Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Our Lord of Grace

We are continuing our series on how to share the Gospel. We are using the framework of The Good News in Three Circles. We’ve discussed God’s desire for relationship with us as told through the creation story in Genesis. We’ve talked about Satan’s intent to destroy all of creation because of his envy of that relationship. We talked about the broken creation and Jesus coming to restore it. Today, we talk about the grace offered to us by Jesus Christ.

 

When we think about where Jesus came from, it is important to remember that it was ruled by a vicious military occupier. The military of Rome was always present and instilled fear. Their weapon of choice was a Roman gladius. The gladius was a short sword used by the Roman legions with devastating effectiveness. It had a blade of 2 feet and a handle 8 to 10 inches. The Roman soldier held the sword in one hand and a shield in the other hand. The Roman soldier was heavily clad in armor and when the legion formed a line, it was impenetrable. People with longer swords could not engage and win. The armor and protective elements made arrow attacks and pikes ineffective. Direct assault from mounted soldiers also proved ineffective. The interesting thing about the gladius, especially compared to our experience of life, was the personal nature of the conflict. Roman soldiers looked their opponents in the eye and then impaled them on the blade of their sword.

 

Roman social engagement was equally as up close. Status battles over honor and shame were in social settings, and they were brutal. The combatants were serious about raising their social status or honor and lowering the others’ social status or shaming them. These encounters were eye to eye and personal. There were no salvos on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. The attacks were never anonymous. The attacks were face to face and intended to inflict harm. When there was a conflict, the party seeking vengeance could put someone in prison or slavery or kill them.  The nature of Roman warfare was reflected in their social systems.

 

Our society is way less up close and personal. In our society, status matters, but we do not battle over it daily. Vengeance is normally not as immediate and final as in Roman society.

 

We fight our wars much differently. While we do engage in close combat, we try to overwhelm the enemy with firepower and reduce close combat as much as possible. Think about the weapons we use. We use jets at 30,000 ft with guided bombs. We use drones at 50,000 ft with guided missiles. Many in the military may never see its enemy. The Roman legions wanted to fight in close quarters. The enemy wanted to avoid the Romans in close engagement.

 

Jesus did not live in our world. Jesus lived in a gladius world where life was lived looking each other in the eye and striking a blow so close you could see the wounds you inflicted on your enemy.

 

Imagine the betrayal Jesus felt when his disciple Peter abandoned him at the trial and crucifixion. It was personal. Peter could see Jesus’ suffering; Jesus could look over and see Peter turn his head away. In your moment of need, your closest disciple turns from you and abandons you. Peter does this within seeing and hearing distance for Jesus. Metaphorically, Peter picked up a gladius, looked Jesus in the eye, stabbed him in the gut and then watched him bleed out and die an excruciating death.

 

In Jesus’ day, a betrayal like Peter’s warranted revenge. If a Caesar escaped death, he would have sought out and finished off Peter. It would have been personal and vicious.

 

In our Gospel reading, Jesus meets the disciples on the shore after a night of fishing. When Peter hears it is the Lord, he jumps in the water and comes ashore. Standing face to face with Jesus Christ, Peter should have expected revenge. Righteous vengeance would have been the response of any Lord in ancient Rome.

Think a moment about those two men facing each other. Now ask, what does Peter deserve?

Let’s read our Gospel passage.

 John 21:3-14

Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, He put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.  When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

 

Picture yourself on a boat and a stranger from the shore yells out to you and rightly guesses that you have caught no fish. The stranger yells back and tells you to try the other side of the boat.

 

From out of nothing, the nets fill with so many fish that they are full. Peter, in his usual task-focused way, gets busy hauling in the nets. Then out of the voice of the other disciples, who recognize the situation because they have seen it before, cries, “It is the Lord.”

 

Finally aware of the presence of the Lord, Simon Peter jumps in the water and swims to shore to meet Jesus. He is standing looking Jesus in the eyes, up close and personal, as Jesus prepares a breakfast of fish and bread.

 

Peter stands there awaiting his judgment, praying that Jesus Christ would be as grace filled as the Jesus he knew as Rabbi and teacher. Jesus could give Peter the harshest of judgments. He does not. Instead, Jesus prepares a meal of bread and fish for the one who openly betrayed him. God prepares breakfast for the friend who betrayed him.

 

In that moment, Peter receives the depth of grace given to humanity by Jesus Christ, our Lord and God.

 

We all have our Peter moments. We all stand before our Lord and Savior naked and guilty. We all depend on the grace of God. In our relationships, we have said or done something that we regret. Others may want to get back at us, perhaps for good reason. We’ve had times where we have had to stand before them and hope for their forgiveness.

 

As Peter stood in the presence of God, he was sorry, he was repentant, he was ready to give Christ his whole life, and this time he meant it. When Jesus asked Peter to go and get the net full of fish, Peter ran to the net, grabbed it, and pulled with all his strength and zeal to bring the fish to Jesus. Knowing full well that he deserved righteous vengeance, Peter was hopeful for the forgiveness of Jesus and ready to devote himself to his Lord.

 

No earthly payment satisfied the betrayal that Jesus experienced at the hands of Peter. You see, only grace could satisfy Peter’s betrayal. Only the gift of grace from God could satisfy Peter’s debt, and only God could look at Peter and say: “You are forgiven. I want you to try again.” This time, you will not fail. This time I will be with you, and my Holy Spirit will guide you as you carry my message of love and grace to the world. As the story continues, Jesus will give Peter the leadership of his church. Peter will never again betray Christ, and he will die crucified just like his Savior.

 

In a world ruled by the sword and debts are satisfied by imprisonment, slavery or death, the grace of Christ wasn’t taken for granted. It was profound. The disciples would have stood in shocked awe, marveling at the grace given Peter by Jesus Christ.

 

When retribution is that personal, so is grace. When someone in the time of Jesus extended grace, it restored a life. To give a widow food or to take in an orphan, a patron brought them into his own family.  There were no agencies, no support systems, no charitable foundations. If an orphan survived, it was because a man brought them into his household. If a widow survived, it was because a man gave her male covering. Survival depended on tight knit families and communities. If you were an outcast, you were vulnerable. If someone saved you, they did it by bringing you into their tight knit social group.

 

In our own personal lives, we too stand before Jesus Christ and seek grace. Peter was the first of many to receiver Christ’s grace. Jesus invites us to accept the same gift of grace. When we accept the grace of Christ, we shed all the brokenness and sin that keeps us from God. Christ repairs our humanity. We are born again as children of God, and we receive eternal life offered through grace.

 

When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we stand before God and receive the same grace offered to Peter.

 

When we repent of our sins and stand before Jesus Christ and ask for forgiveness, we receive all the grace given Peter for his mistakes. Like Peter, we repent and ask God to help us try again, this time with God’s Holy Spirit.

 

When we accept Christ’s forgiveness, Jesus Christ provides us with all the grace that we will ever need. We become children of God, and we belong to the house of the Lord. We have the promise of eternal life, to be loved forever by God with all our brothers and sisters.

 

When we are Baptized, we declare to the world that we are a new person, born again and saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. We show our commitment to following the way of life as members of our Christian community.

The Roman world was a barbaric but intimate world. Life happened face to face. Christ invites you to come to God and to be joined by the Holy Spirit with all believers in Christ. This can feel removed and distant.

 

Yet, we are in a deeply intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. We stand face to face with our creator and our Lord every second of every day. Jesus knew the world up close and personal. As followers of Christ, we have a responsibility to be fully present and fully engaged with people. For a follower of Christ, we do not minister to people from a place far removed, we encounter individuals in our everyday life. It means we are open to being used for the glory of God, available and all in.

 

Jesus celebrated Peter, inspired Peter, and made room for Peter-even at the head of the table. You are just as valuable as Peter. Jesus Christ celebrates you, fills you with grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, and asks you to be a messenger of the Gospel, together with your brothers and sisters at Place of Grace Fellowship. The Spirit of Christ lives in our being, and Christ joins us daily as we walk through our life and share Christ’s grace and forgiveness with those we encounter. 

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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