Our nation is up in arms about the New England Patriots' skullduggery in the NFL playoffs. Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady apparently had their footballs deflated so they were easier to catch, and their low fumble stats in the game re-inforced their reputation as perennial cheaters. Even the Whitehouse has made a statement about it. It's become commonly known as DeflateGate. When asked whether he was a cheater, Brady's denial was it at it's political best. "I don't believe I am." I'm conflicted. I don't like the Seahawks. But if the Patriots win the Superbowl, the win will seem a bit hollow, and their supporters may feel slightly, shall we say, deflated?
Yesterday we looked at Peter's denial of Jesus. We looked at his inability to live up to his promises to be faithful to Jesus even if it meant death. We talked about his inability to handle Jesus' teaching that the Kingdom would come, not through brandishing a sword but through carrying a cross. It wasn't so much that Peter was a coward. It was that he couldn't get a grip on this aspect of Jesus' kingdom. So He started to follow from a distance, and eventually came to disown Jesus completely.
We all have some aspect of Jesus' teaching on the Kingdom that we struggle to get our heads and hands around. Life in the kingdom can be hard to handle so we begin to follow from a distance. It may be Jesus' teaching on forgiveness. As CS Lewis said, "Forgiveness is a lovely idea until you have someone to forgive." Or it might be His teaching on generosity, sexuality, authority, serving the poor or self-denial. Our temptation, in the hard to handle parts of the Kingdom, is to deflate the true size and shape of His teaching so that we can get our hands around it. But in doing so, we become subtle deniers in some way. My struggle with the Bible is not so much in trying to work out the parts I don't understand, as it is trying to obey the parts I do understand. We all have our own Deflategate, don't we? We have all, at some point, denied Jesus.
Jesus' response to Peter's denial is a miracle and a meal. He provides a miracle catch of fish and prepares breakfast on the beach for the Denier and his deserting friends. Just days before Jesus had shown Doubting Thomas his nail-ruined hands as proof that He was the same Jesus who died and had now risen again. Now, those ruined hands build a fire, bake bread and broil fish for Peter and the disciples. After the catch of fish, when Peter recognizes it is Jesus, he dives overboard and bounds towards Jesus like a golden retriever. The same Peter, who had earlier wanted Jesus to "Go away from me for I am a sinful man," now runs towards Jesus, even though he is brokenhearted over his denial.
We should do the same. We should not deny our denial. But we should run towards Jesus' ruined hands. Those hands can hold us, heal us and restore us. Jesus' hands were ruined in order to rebuild the ruins of our lives. And in rebuilding us, He enables us to to get our fragile hands around the true size and shape of His Kingdom.