He said, “Don’t be afraid. I know you’re looking for Jesus the Nazarene, the One they nailed on the cross. He’s been raised up; he’s here no longer. You can see for yourselves that the place is empty. Nowâ€”on your way. Tell his disciples and Peter that he is going on ahead of you to Galilee. You’ll see him there, exactly as he said.”Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Mark 16:6-7 (The Message)
The lectionary texts this week were a strange group to me. The connection is they all include God. (Yes, I am chuckling, too.) It was the passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 that took my mind, not to Paul, but to Peter.
God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (The Message)
God is not about rejection. And so He made a Way for me to be reconciled to Him. He held back nothing to make that possible. He provided the blood sacrifice. He provided the example that I am always to be about encouragement so that I increase hope in everyone that I come into contact. No one should ever be judged by me and so feel rejected by God and lose hope. I am Jesus’ ambassador and could be the first, even potentially the only, Jesus they meet. A judgmental, condemning attitude can destroy.
And so my mind went to Peter. How his story speaks to my fumbling, stumbling walk as a disciple of Jesus. Peter loudly proclaimed that he would never leave Jesus (Mark 14:29). And then Peter denied Jesus (Luke 22:54-62). Not just once but 3 times in one night! In Mark’s account we hear the announcing angel specifically speak Peter’s name so that no one hearing the message (including Peter) will even think that Peter is no longer the Rock that Jesus pronounced him to be. In John’s Gospel, Jesus asks the â€œlove questionâ€ and the command to feed His sheep 3 times as if to cancel out each one of Peter’s denials (John 21: 15-19). Peter speaks to me when I am struggling through, giving me hope for every tomorrow.
We need encouragement. We certainly need correction and discipline. Too often I feel the need to give some person the correction personally. I do not give the Holy Spirit credit for His power to correct. And I do not keep God’s love in the forefront of my own relationship with Him as well as the service that I give to others in His name.
It is the time of year when â€œthanksâ€ and â€œgratitudeâ€ may be more in our minds than usual. May I remember how many â€œchancesâ€ God has given me. May I remember how often Jesus has welcomed me back to His side. No sin is too dirty or disgusting that His Blood cannot completely cover it and it will be no more.
Let us greet all who are searching for a real â€œhomeâ€. Welcome back, in the Name of the LORD!