The evangelist writes as if for the theatre,
scenes that have been re-enacted
by countless ecclesiastical ensembles for millennia.
In the final act of his disturbing drama
the lead character returns unexpectedly to centre stage
and is brought face to face with a once-trusted friend.
One who famously abandoned him
at a time of desperate need.
We, who also know the bitter taste of failure,
squirm awkwardly with the fisherman
as his master invites him, three times,
to reaffirm his devotion.
The brash confidence of previous boasts
has been supplanted by the shame
of his pre-dawn denials.
Self-assured words no longer come readily
to his lips.
Jesus is gracious, accepting;
he does not chastise.
There is work to be done,
there are journeys to be completed,
there are sheep to be tended;
failures, too, are needed.
It’s simple, Simon. Yes, we all stuff up, we all disappoint and let each other down. Yes, yours was a big one. Three times. But it’s a divine principle, you should have grasped it by now. One of a handful that the Master revealed in the few years that he walked among us. Like the cycle of death and resurrection, the centrality of love, the wonder of God’s presence, living as God’s children, and the primacy of grace. Forgiveness, new beginnings. The idea that losers become winners; that, freed from the depression of failure, and made new in God’s Spirit, everyone can take part in the work of the kingdom. You too. Feed God’s sheep, take care of the lambs, share the love, spread the good news. It’s simple, Simon.