Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13
Who is your favorite hero? Is it Captain America with his ethics of steel and his shield of proto-Adamantium? Is it Gandalf with his beard of glory and his wizardly wisdom? Is it Corrie Ten Boom with her devoted sense of justice and her commitment to extend grace?
Heroes are awesome. We admire them. We dress up as them at Halloween. We want to be like them. But there’s a problem. We’re usually not the hero, even though some of us think we are. Why is that? The reason is pride, that tincture of sin and self-exaltation that infects us all. True heroes forget themselves and live for the needs of another. In the greatest stories, the hero dies that others might live. When we take an honest look in the mirror, we’re usually more like a helpless citizen or deceitful villain.
Today is the Monday after Easter. Day one after the most glorious weekend in human history, when the crucified Savior burst forth from the tomb to conquer sin and death completely. How are we feeling today? Did Eastertide come and go without us giving it much thought? Or were we gripped this year by the fear of COVID-19 knocking at our door?
Imagine the emotions Peter feels in the days following the resurrection. He remembers his once valiant attempt to unite himself to the suffering of his Master: “I will lay my life down for you” (John 13:37). Then his mind races to the courtyard, when the high priest’s servant girl pressed him about his association with Jesus. “I do not know him!” Peter cried three times. He can still hear the rooster’s and see the look on Jesus’s face. Even after encountering the empty tomb, Peter wonders if Jesus is done with him. Filled with guilt, Peter does what many of us do when we’re sad; he goes fishing (John 21). And Jesus does what he always does with His sheep who follow Him one minute and deny Him the next…Jesus pursues Peter. At the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus performs an encore of a miracle that Peter would remember from the early days of his relationship with Jesus.
“Children, do you have any fish?” Jesus asks.
The embarrassed pro anglers hang their heads: “No.”
“Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”
The haul of fish is so overwhelming, Peter and friends can’t bring it in. And the revelation of the risen Christ is so overwhelming, Peter throws himself into the sea and does his best 100-meter freestyle. Once on shore, Peter and the disciples enjoy a breakfast prepared by the resurrected Jesus. And after breakfast, in one of the most vivid and moving scenes in all of the Gospels, Jesus graciously restores Peter with a three-fold call to confession, to love Him, and to feed His sheep. And this scene of restoration closes with the words that bookend Peter’s life and ministry: “Follow Me.”
Following Jesus is not about trying to be the hero. It actually starts by admitting that we’re not. The Monday after Easter is a moment to remember all the ways we’ve failed our God…and to revel in the glory of our crucified and risen Savior. We’re not groveling in shame; we’re clinging to the righteousness Christ offers to us through His finished work. As the Holy Spirit applies what Jesus did for us, He changes our desires so that living for Christ becomes more important than living for the praise of others. We long for Christ to live in us and through us. We want to serve others as Christ has served us, not to be the hero, but to be a witness to the power of the resurrection. The same Jesus who restored Peter after all of his failures is the Jesus who meets us in our failures and says, “Do you love Me? Follow Me.” An older Peter gives us words to encourage our hearts on this Monday after Easter. May we prepare our minds for action; and being sober-minded, may we set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13). We have just celebrated something marvelous. Peter reminds us that something even more wonderful is coming, when the real Hero comes again.