I’m not the type of person who would say that I am a lover of poetry. I only own two books of poems and they are both by the same author. I can talk to you about maybe a handful of poems that I love, and I might even be able to tell you who wrote them. I can recite three poems from memory. I’ve written maybe twenty poems in my life, and I’ve only held onto four of them. All of this is just to say that my knowledge of poetry is unremarkable.
Still there is something about certain poems that really grips my soul. The one poet who has been able to do this more than any other is Buddy Wakefield. The two books of poetry I mentioned earlier are “Gentleman Practice” and “Live for A Living” and both of them are collections of Buddy’s work. The poem I wanted to share is definitely a contender for my favorite poem. It might not really hold a candle to Keats or Shakespeare, but it speaks to me and I think that is what poetry is supposed to do.
I have to warn you, This video contains some strong language:
I can’t hear or read this poem and not be moved. I have no idea if this poem is based on true events, but coming from someone who has lived in plenty of small do-nothing towns, I can tell you that this story is very much true for very many people. It really humanizes the person that I know I have passed by hundreds of times without taking notice. It forces me to stop and realize that that lady behind the gas station counter is a real person. It forces me to stop and realize that that lady at waffle house, or that man on the street corner, or that mean junkie who yelled at me under a bridge…. that these are all people.
These are human beings that for whatever reason, be it their fault or by circumstances they can’t control, have found themselves at the short end of the stick. It reminds me that underneath all the ugliness of life and sin there are human beings that were created by God and loved by God.
It also reminds me that each person I come across is more than what I make them out to be. In one of the most sobering passages of scripture Jesus tells his fellow men that the way they treat others has real and eternal significance. He reminds them that they are to love their fellow human beings as if it were Christ himself in need of help.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
– Matthew 25:31-46
Let’s try to remember this as we go about those day to day interactions with people who we so rarely give a second thought to. They are love children of God and they are to be loved and honored as if they were Christ himself.
So I came across and article entitled “40 Questions To Ask A Christian” which was meant to be a thought exercise on behalf of the Atheists to be taken up by Christians. As the author wrote:
“Asking a difficult question can achieve better results because it taps into the Christian’s desire to share the wisdom they perceive themselves to have. Any reflex for angry disagreement is quashed and replaced by an obligation to think their answer through. Ultimately, thought is what an atheist should be trying to elicit. By asking the right questions, one can determine the direction that such thought takes.”
So I have copied the article’s 40 questions below and I will attempt to answer them to the best of my ability. I have not prepared or done any research before or after reading these questions. I wanted to be as genuine in my answers as possible, and try to respond as I would if I were asked these questions by a random stranger on the street.
40 Questions for Christians
- (Global Religion)
If a hundred different religions have to be wrong for yours to be right, does this show that people from all over the world like to invent gods that don’t exist?
Not necessarily. Let’s look at it this way, if a hundred different accounts of a historical event have to be wrong for yours to be right, does that show that people all over the world like to invent historical events that don’t exist? The answer would be no. Most all cultures have some grasp of God or gods no matter how isolated they may be. The problem is usually not “Does God exist” as much as it is “What is God like.” Having said that I don’t think anyone has to be wrong for something else to be right. I believe Christianity to be true, and by saying that I am also saying that what contradicts Christianity is not true. If a Muslim or a Hindu were to come and say something about God that contradicts Christianity then I would assume they are false. If they says something that is not contradicted, or even perhaps supported by Christianity then I would say they are true. I think that other religions may have false beliefs and an incomplete view of God, but I don’t think thousands of different cultures all over the world just made up God on their own.
If your parents had belonged to a different religion, do you think you would belong to that religion too?
Maybe. It’s really impossible to say since I did not grow up in a home of another faith. I would certainly hope that someone would present the Gospel to me and that I would accept it no matter what religion I was born in. I can say that I believe I would probably always seek after God regardless of what culture I was born into. I would certainly hope that God would not allow me to return from my quest empty-handed.
If people from the five major religions are each told conflicting information by their respective gods, should any of them be believed?
Yes. Just because there are conflicting views on something does not negate that one of them could be true. If I say grass is green and four other people disagree with me we shouldn’t just assume that none of us can be trusted.
- (Communication with God)
How can you tell the voice of God from a voice in your head?
Does this voice ask you to do anything that would conflict with the teachings of Christ and the Apostles? Does this voice move like a holy fire through your very soul? Does this voice point you towards more loving service or spreading of the Gospel, or is it more self-serving or pointing to sin?
How can you tell the voice of God from the voice of the Devil?
My answer is the same as the above.
Would you find it easier to kill someone if you believed God supported you in the act?
No. I don’t think I could ever kill easily even if there was a divine command behind it. Killing should never come easy. Also I don’t believe I would ever be commanded to kill another human being by God. In the Old Testament Israel and God’s people were used as a human representation of God’s judgement and so God did use them to kill. The thing is that God’s wrath and judgement on sin was completely poured out on Christ at the cross. We are in a new age of mercy where the old is fading and the new is coming.
If God told you to kill an atheist, would you?
I already pretty much answered this in the previous question.
When an atheist is kind and charitable out of the kindness of his heart, is his behavior more or less commendable than a religious man who does it because God instructed him to?
Yes and No. An atheist who does a kindness in order to get a warm and fuzzy feeling or to feel good about themselves is really no different in motive than a religious person who does good simply to please his God. Christians however don’t believe in doing good to appease God, but rather we do good because we are so filled with love for what God has already done that we cannot help but let that love overflow onto others.
If you are against the Crusades and the Inquisition, would you have been burned alive as a heretic during those events?
Maybe. It depends on how vocal I was.
If your interpretation of a holy book causes you to condemn your ancestors for having a different interpretation, will your descendants condemn you in the same way?
I’m pretty loose in what I consider a Christian. If they believe Christ was fully divine and fully man, the messiah, and that he died and rose again for the sake of sinners so that they would be forgiven then I consider them a Christian. Any other interpretations are secondary and are not “deal breakers.” I don’t know the beliefs of my ancestors. I also don’t know whether they would condemn me.
Rape wasn’t always a crime in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Is that why `do not rape’ is not part of the Ten Commandments?
Well it was. Also if you notice a lot of things weren’t mentioned in the Ten commandments. I would say that the 7th commandment “Though Shall Not Commit Adultery”, the 8th Commandment “Thou Shall Not Steal” and the 10th “Thou shall not covet” could all be applied to condemn rape.
Do lions need `god-given’ morality to understand how to care for their young, co-operate within a pack, or feel anguish at the loss of a companion? Why do we?
No. Morality can exist in a secular sense. My problem with secular morality is not that it doesn’t exist, but rather that it is entirely dependent on the individual and the ever-changing opinion of the mass. Secular morality is dangerously close to mob morality. This doesn’t mean it cannot be right or true, but I simply don’t find it sturdy enough for me.
If organized religion requires a civilization in which to spread, how could this civilization exist without first having a moral code to make us civil?
I’m not sure I understand this question. I think religion is one of the first steps any primitive people experience before forming a civilization. Historically civilizations tend to come from and form around temples and religious structures.
- (The Characteristics of God)
An all-knowing God can read your mind, so why does he require you to demonstrate your faith by worshiping him?
He doesn’t. Worship is a means for us to show gratitude. He knows our heart, but we enjoy celebrating what God has done. Worship is a mutually beneficial act.
If God is all-knowing, why do holy books describe him as surprised or angered by the actions of humans? He should have known what was going to happen.
When we tell stories we are limited by our language. There re truly no words that I believe can accurately encapsulate God. For the narrative structure to work God must be humanized to an extent so that we can fathom what is happening. We anthropomorphize God to better relate to him.
An all-knowing God knows who will ultimately reject him. Why does God create people who he knows will end up in hell?
Hell is the result of man’s free will. God desires that all men would be saved, but he forces no one to follow him. Apart from God there can be no good and complete rejection of God is the absence of good, or Hell. God wants you in heaven one day, but he doesn’t force anyone to come home. God created us to love us and be loved by us, love however requires a choice, and a choice means that it must be possible to reject love.
If God is all-knowing, then why did he make humans in the knowledge that he’d eventually have to send Jesus to his death?
All things for the glory of God. Jesus was not plan B. Jesus was plan A so that God could tangibly demonstrate his love for us and show us grace and mercy while remaining true and just.
Why did a supposedly omnipotent god take six days to create the universe, and why did he require rest on the seventh day?
It’s a narrative story. It’s meant to show the passing of time. In English the word “rest” usually is the result of becoming tired or exhausted. This is a translation problem. The original Hebrew text used a word which simply meant that on the seventh day God stopped creating. It is not that God was tired after six days of work, but rather that his creation was complete.
Is omnipotence necessary to create our universe when a larger, denser universe would have required more power?
As I stated in the previous answer, when the creation was complete God stopped working. I don’t see how a larger or more dense universe would be any more or less necessary than the one we live in. I’m still a little confused by what this question was supposed to be saying?
- (The Bible)
Why are Churches filled with riches when Jesus asked his followers to give their wealth away?
You should come visit my church. But on a serious note all things are for the Glory of God. Wealth used to honor and glorify God is a way to put God above money. We are to give to all who are in need, and most churches do. Also I’ll point out that those elaborately decorated cathedrals this question was probably pointed to are usually built by donations from the poor that the church supports. If churches never ran shelters, food and clothing drives, hospitals, or orphanages then I could see the problem, but that is not the case.
While in the desert, Jesus rejected the temptations of the Devil. He didn’t censor or kill the Devil, so why are Christians so in favor of censoring many Earthly temptations?
Christ did not openly embrace or allow the devil to prosper either. He tolerated evil only so far before he shut him down. What good could possibly come from allowing evil to go unchecked.
Given that the story of Noah’s Ark was copied almost word for word from the much older Sumerian Epic of Atrahasis, does this mean that our true ruler is the supreme sky god, Anu?
No, but perhaps Anu the supreme sky god and Yahweh are the same God seen through different cultural lenses. Remember my point about how different religions can still all testify to the existence of God? It’s a similar thing going on here. The story of Noah is particularly interesting because it occurs so often in so many different cultures and legends from around the world. It’s a really fascinating tale that seems to have roots all over the world, leaving me to believe that there is truth to it.
- (Religious Conversion)
If your desire is to convert atheists so that they become more like you; do you think that you’re currently better than them?
My desire to convert atheists is so that they can be with me in heaven one day and come to know the joy and peace that comes from knowing Christ and having a relationship with the father. I do not think I am better than atheists, in fact I don’t know how a Christian could. Any holiness seen in Christians comes not from their own work or merit, but from the holy spirit and the gifts and blessings from God the father. To God be the glory.
If religious people don’t respect their children’s right to pick their own religion at a time when they’re able to make that decision, how can society expect religious people to respect anyone’s right to freedom of religion?
Well that’s a loaded question. A Christian parent should not respect their child’s rejection of Christ because that is the most hateful thing a parent could possibly do. That is literally tolerating someone right into the gates of Hell (God forbid). Any Christian who actually believes Christ meant what he said cannot easily allow any loved one to reject the truth without putting in a great deal of prayer effort to convince them otherwise. If I love my child I must hate what is harmful for them, and nothing should be hated more than the complete and total rejection of all things good. Notice this is not me saying the child should be hated, but the parent should do whatever is in their power to dissuade their child from what they know is a path away from what is good.
If missionaries from your religion should be sent to convert people in other countries, should missionaries from other religions be sent to your country?
That’s up to them to decide. I’d love to talk to them.
If children are likely to believe in Santa Claus and fairies, does this explain why religion has been taught in schools for thousands of years?
Not really. Religion was taught because it was believed to be true. Although there have always been atheists, the cultural movement has only really been around since the 18th century. For most of history there was not secular education. Churches were the centers of learning and the Priests were the educated people of the day. The shift of separating religion and education and religion and politics is a pretty recent occurrence in the grand scheme of history.
When preachers and prophets claim to be special messengers of God, they often receive special benefits from their followers. Does this ever cause you to doubt their intentions?
I’m not sure what you mean. I know of no rich prophets.
When you declare a miracle, does this mean you understand everything that is possible in nature?
No. When I say something is a miracle it means I cannot see how God was not involved in this. Even if I know how something happens it can still be a miracle.
If a woman was cured of cancer by means unknown to us, and everyone declared it a miracle, would the chance of scientifically replicating this cure be more or less likely?
This is a strange question. If we didn’t know how it happened then I don’t know how science could hope to replicate it.
If humans declared fire to be a miracle thousands of years ago, would we still be huddling together in caves while we wait for God to fire another lightning bolt into the forest?
Fire is pretty miraculous when it is really though about, but I say no. The scientific method was invented by a catholic priest. Isaac Newton, Gregor Mendel, and Galileo were all deeply religious people who believed in miracles. These men were spurred on to discover because they believed that God created an ordered and understandable universe. Miracles doesn’t mean science stops. Miracles means that God still works, whether we understand how or not.
If God gave a man cancer, and the Devil cured him to subvert God’s plan, how would you know it wasn’t a divine miracle? What if he was an unkind, atheist, homosexual?
God has worked through the Devil (see the book of Job) and he has worked through non believers countless times in the Old Testament. If God gave a man cancer and then chose to remove it then it doesn’t really matter to me how it was removed.
Should an instruction to convert to your religion upon the threat of eternal torture in hell be met with anything other than hostility?
We aren’t threatening you with hell anymore than the person who sees an eighteen wheeler bearing down on you is threatening you with the eighteen wheeler. We simply see the danger and wish to save you from it. To do anything else would be extremely cruel.
Can a mass murderer go to heaven for accepting your religion, while a kind doctor goes to hell for not?
Yes. No man deserves eternal paradise and communion with God, yet God saw it good to give us admittance into his family free of charge. If a kind doctor rejects this offer and chooses hell then his decision will be honored. If a mass murder chooses repentance and grace then God is good to forgive.
Did the mass murdering Crusaders and Inquisitors make it into the Christian heaven?
I certainly hope so. I also hope their victims have found a home in paradise along side them.
How can we know what is right when we don’t know for sure who makes it into heaven and hell?
This question is written as if good people go to heaven and bad people go to hell. There are no good or bad people. There are only redeemed and unrepentant people.
If aliens exist on several worlds that have never heard of your god, will they all be going to hell when they die?
That’s not my call to make, but I would assume no. The reason a man goes to heaven or hell is because of his eternal soul. Unless and alien was given an eternal soul by God I’d assume their fate is the same as a dog or a whale.
- (The Promises of Religion)
If someone promised you eternal life, the protection of a loving super being, a feeling of moral righteousness, a purpose for living, answers to all the big questions, and a rule book for achieving the pinnacle of human potential… and all in exchange for having faith in something that wasn’t proven, would you be suspicious?
Yes. I was very skeptical before I became a Christian. I was a very difficult person to convince.
If someone promised to give you a billion dollars after ten years, but only if you worshiped them until that time, would you believe them? If someone promised to give you eternal life upon death, but only if you spent your life worshiping a god, would you believe them?
Worshiping a man for money is not a worthy endeavor. Maybe, obviously I said yes to Christianity though I still think you misunderstand the point of worship though. I also think these questions focus way too much on the next life and not enough on the life we have now. Christianity is not just a religion of the future, it is a life to be lived out now.
Why does religion appeal more to poor, weak, vulnerable, young, ill, depressed, and ostracized people? Could religious promises be more of a temptation to these people?
It appeals to these people because they understand what it means to need grace, mercy, healing and a savior. A person who is extremely blessed in this world has many things he can make his God, whether it is money, power, influence, pride, approval, or what have you. The poor and needy are closer to God because they know what it means to cling to him for their needs.
The other day I was listening to a discussion about homosexuality. One side was pro-gay marriage in the Christian Church. The other side had a more traditional understanding of marriage. Now I’m not writing this post to be about homosexuality, but the context is important because it was from this discussion that a big realization came to me. The pro-gay marriage side said something along the lines of “God is fair, so why would he create some people to get married and others not to?” That is when it hit me…. God doesn’t make us equal, and Jesus never claimed to be fair.
Now maybe I’m going to upset a some people by saying that, but I think there is a lot of truth to it. Think about it, was it fair that Jesus picked twelve blue-collar guys to be his disciples instead of all the educated Jewish young men who had trained their whole lives to be a disciple of a rabbi? Was if fair that Jesus healed some people but not others? Was it fair that Jesus raised some people from the dead, but not others? Was it fair that Jesus told Peter, Andrew, and John to simply come and follow him, but the rich young ruler had to sell all his things first? What about the mercy shown to the woman caught in adultery? What about the loyal older brother in the prodigal’s son parable? Is it fair that Gentiles were simply welcomed into the faith without having to go through all the rituals, observances, and careful study that the Jewish believers had lived through? Is there really anything in the Bible that leads you to believe Jesus was fair?
The truth of the matter is that we are not all created equal and we don’t all get equal treatment, at least not in the sense a lot of people take that to mean. I was born a white male in a middle class American family. Is it fair that someone else was being born to a dirt poor Indonesian family that same day? I certainly didn’t do anything to earn these blessings, no more than those born to poor families are any more deserving of their status. I know people who were born with same-sex attractions that straight people will never have to wrestle with… is that fair? One of my good friends is a quadriplegic who can only really control her head while I could get up and go for a walk or sit here and type this blog whenever I wanted.
So what am I getting at, that God and Jesus loved some people more than others? Not at all! God made Paul to be a Pharisee and a Roman Citizen for His purposes, just as he made Peter to be a fisherman and a loud mouthed apostle for his own. God made the Moses knowing he wouldn’t be a great speaker. He made Jacob knowing he would be a traitor. He made Noah knowing he would be a drunk. He made every disadvantaged broken person with the same tender love and mercy that he made every person of privilege.
Here’s the kicker though, it is a great thing that God and Jesus are not fair. You see, a God who was obsessed with fairness would never have sent his Son to earth to die for sinners. If there is anything to be said about God’s sense of fairness it is that he has loved each of us far more than we deserve.
Yes, God has very different plans for all of us. Some of us were built to be Bankers and others to be Martyrs. Some of us were blessed with health, wealth, and prosperity so that we could be generous with our gifts and support all those who are need. Some of us were born with need so that we could be blessed spiritually and reach people who the upper middle class suburbanite never could. Jesus himself was a poor traveler who often had no home or place to lay his head. Think about that, God wasn’t even fair to his own Son…
It is not fair that any of us should be given grace, mercy, love, or forgiveness from our Heavenly Father. It is not fair that God continually gave Israel chance after chance to repent and return to Him. It is certainly not fair that God would send his son to earth as a poor carpenter to suffer and die on our behalf. The Gospel message isn’t fair, and that’s a good thing!
Some of us are not destined to be married, or have a nice house, or have a steady income, or have perfect health, or live to an old age, or to have all the perks and privileges that we feel entitled to. That is ok though! God made you the way you are for a reason and regardless of your place in life, you have been blessed far more than you could ever deserve because the Son of God loved you enough to take your sins and shame upon himself on your behalf.
Let’s try to remember that next time we get upset about life not being fair.
It’s getting to be that time of year again when high school and college seniors are graduating from their respected levels of education. It’s a time to to reflect on the past years, to look forward to the times ahead, and to take Jeremiah 29:11 completely out of context.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
– Jeremiah 29:11
I feel like I almost didn’t even need to include Jeremiah 29:11 in this passage. Modern Christianity has made it one of the most popularly quoted passages of scripture of all time. I get the appeal. This verse is a guarantee that someone up there is looking out for us. It comes with a promise of prosperity, a higher plan, and hope that all things will work out for good. The verse doesn’t ask for much of us when read by itself and it creates this image of a vague benevolent force that’s got your back.
I do believe that God does have a plan for you, and that he has given you hope and a future. I also believe that God’s amazing and wonderful plan for your life is probably not going to be the wish-fulfilling prosperity and comfortable life we tend to imagine.
For starters, let’s address the book this passage is taken from. Jeremiah was known as “The Weeping Prophet” and for a good reason. God sent Jeremiah to warn the people of Israel against the coming disaster that they were heading towards because of their abandonment of God. Jeremiah loved his people and devoted his life to winning them back to God, only to be hated, abused, and mistreated for most of his life. Jeremiah did his job by warned the people, but on this side of eternity he never received what we would call a “prosperous life.” Jeremiah put his heart and soul into his ministry, but at the end of the day he hardly saw any fruits from his labors.
He is far from the only person in the Bible to end up on the seeming short end of the stick. Jumping ahead to the New Testament church leaders, we see that Paul spent the majority of his life in prison while Peter, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, James, Thaddeus, and Simon would all eventually be crucified for spreading the good news of Christ. Others were burned, speared, stabbed, stoned, tortured, and left for dead due to exposure. Does that sound like a prosperous life?
I guess what I’m getting at is when we use Jeremiah 29:11 out of context we can easily stray off into a border line prosperity gospel message, and that just isn’t Biblical. God’s wonderful plan for your life, if you choose to actually pursue it, will probably not be a comfortable one. We as Christians today are so big on comfort. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves or others with sharing the gospel because it might get awkward.
Our wondrous and prosperous life is living in the reality that our sins have been forgiven and we get the honor and privilege of sharing that good news with the rest of the world. God doesn’t promise each of us riches, comfort, earthly pleasures, a nice house, or even a loving spouse. The american dream is not exactly what Jeremiah 29:11 was talking about.
We really have only two ways we can conduct our lives. We can either live our lives for something eternal or something fading. I don’t think we truly grasp just how amazing it is to consider the fact that we have a purpose at all. The universe certainly doesn’t owe us one, and if we approach reality form the view that we were nothing more than a chemical reaction and chance, then we really don’t have a purpose. Life outside of God is an empty and meaningless endeavor.
Instead God promises us that there is a plan and a purpose behind all of this. Our lives are not without meaning and we aren’t just random accidents in a chaotic universe, we have a plan and a purpose to our lives. Not only do we have a purpose, but we are promised prosperity. Our lives may not seem like successes by worldly standards, but even the “worst” life that follows God is better than the “best” life pursing fading, empty, and pointless passions that will never leave any eternal impact.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon mourns the pointlessness of life. He was a man who had every pleasure and desire imaginable. He was prosperous and lived in excess by almost every human standard. He had any food he desired, more money and riches than could be spent, more wives than he could ever need, and anything his heart desired… and in the end he found it all empty and useless.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!”says the Teacher.“Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
– Ecclesiastes 1:2
King Solomon needed a purpose. He needed a reason for everything, or else nothing he did or obtained seemed to matter.
God gives us a purpose, he gives us a plan, he lets us play a part in his redemptive story. He gives us a reason to live, a goal to strive for, and the guarantee that it is not all in vain. Nothing else on earth can guarantee that. There is no cause, fight, goal, or achievement apart from God that can give you the guarantee that in the end it will not be forgotten and made worthless by the ever ongoing annuls of time. Only God can give us a purpose, only God can help us truly prosper, and only God can give us something eternal.
“God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
– C.S. Lewis.
One of my new favorite passages in the Bible is John 21. The power of this passage was always lost on me, and I want to take a moment to thank my good friend Timothy for helping me see this passage with new eyes. His insight inspired this post.
John 21 is a passage I never really gave a lot of thought or attention to. It always seemed to me like it was a really anti-climatic ending for the Gospel writings. It is a quiet conclusion to what I would consider the greatest story ever told. The gospel accounts end with a quiet breakfast on the beach.
John says it like this:
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
I love the disciples. I see so much of myself in them. They are just so human. Remember that Christ had been crucified, buried, risen, and had appeared to the disciples resurrected. They had witnessed the risen son of God, and what did they do? They went fishing.
Imagine if you had experienced all the disciples had experienced. Imagine if you had spent years at Christ’s side witnessing his miracles and hearing his teachings. Imagine if you had seen him crucified and buried only to see the risen and resurrected Lord three days later…. Now imagine what it must have been like going back to work after all that. I’d imagine it would probably take a great deal of time to process everything that these men had just gone through, so I guess fishing seemed like as good a use of time as anything.
Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.
I love this passage. One of the guys on the boat recognizes Jesus and Peter is so overjoyed to see him that he can’t wait for the boat to reach shore. They were only about a hundred yards from the beach, but Peter decided that he was going to jump in and swim the distance rather than wait patiently on the boat to reach the shore. I’ve been very happy to see people in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy that I would leap out of a boat to get to the shore faster.
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
“Come have breakfast” just makes me smile. Remember that Jesus had already accomplished everything he came to this world to do. The victory had been won, the chains of sin and death were shattered, a new day had dawned. So what does Christ do? He makes breakfast.
I love the fact that we worship a God of small things as well as big things. God does not always come with pearls of lightning, rolls of thunder, and a blinding flash of light. Sometimes he just wants to chat with you on the beach over breakfast. Christ could have been seated at the right hand of God in glory. He could have been justly worshiped and exhausted by the heavenly host! Instead he decided that, for the time being, he’d rather visit disciples and have a quick bite to eat. That is the love Christ has for us.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
This is yet another passage where I completely missed the point for a long time. Why does Jesus ask Peter three times if he loves him? Because Peter has denied Christ three times just a few days ago. Jesus was reconciling Peter. Imagine the shame that Peter must have felt after he had denied Christ and acted so cowardly during Christ’s time of need. In spite of his overwhelming joy at seeing the risen Lord, I have no doubt that Peter was still deeply ashamed of himself and his cowardice. This was Christ telling Peter that all was forgiven. He was telling Peter that he was not concerned with the past sins. Peter had temporarily given up on Christ, but Christ had never given up on Peter. God had not forgotten him, and Christ was still going to use Peter to do great things.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return,what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
Of course Peter is still Peter, and in true Peter fashion he almost misses the point entirely. Luckily for Peter, and us, Christ is patient and makes his point absolutely clear. Jesus had a job for Peter, and he has a job for us as well. He calls us to follow him, and tend to his sheep.
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.