A Fresh Start (from Behind the Halo)

We are all cut from the same cloth, flawed and needy. What does forgiveness look like to you, from both sides?

          Despite exhaustion from fishing all night, an undercurrent of exhilaration ran through the group of men. The past several days had been an emotional whirlwind. A kangaroo court of a trial followed by the execution of Jesus had shattered the bonds they had shared. Just when their sorrow didn’t feel like it could be more consuming, word had come that, by some miracle, Jesus had been raised from the dead.

            “Jesus, are you back to stay?” asked James quietly.

            “James, I think you know the answer to that question. I’ve always told you the truth. The truth is I was sent for a purpose, and I’ve accomplished it. The time is coming soon when I must return to our heavenly Father.”

            Solemn faces encircled the fire that had cooked their breakfast.

            “Jesus, how will we go on without you?” Nathaniel mumbled, twisting the corner of his tunic.

            “You’ll go on quite well. It won’t be easy, and most of you’ll follow separate paths from each other. But I’ve given you the tools you’ll need to fulfill God’s call on your lives,” the teacher reassured his disciples. “Nathaniel, what have you learned during our time together?”

            “I… I don’t know, Jesus,” Nathaniel answered, rubbing his forehead.

            “Sure, you do. You were pretty doubtful when we met. I seem to recall a crack about nothing good coming out of Nazareth. Do you still doubt I am who I say I am?” Jesus asked, trying to hide a slight smile.

            “Of course not! How could I, after all we’ve seen?” Nathaniel paused and stared into the fire for a minute. “I’ve learned to have, and use, more faith.”

            Jesus clapped his hands, “Exactly! All of you have learned the lessons you needed most. That’s not to say you don’t have more to learn and won’t make any mistakes.”

            Peter’s chin rested on his hand, his eyes drooping.

            “Hey! Peter, do you think you love me more than your friends?” Jesus asked.

            Peter shook his head then sat straight up, “Of course, I do, Jesus, what kind of question is that?”

            “Just a simple question, Peter. Serve the weak, Peter, the young, the old, the sick, the marginalized.”

“Sure, Jesus, whatever you say.”

“Peter, are you sure you love and want to continue to follow me?”

“Lord, I already told you I did.”

“Good. I want you to be a strong leader. Can you do that for me?”

“Lord, are you talking to the right guy? You know I screw up all the time,” Peter’s voice grew softer and softer. “How could you forget my colossal blunder after the soldiers took you from us?” Peter dropped his head to his chest, remorse at denying Jesus hanging heavily upon him.

“I didn’t forget, Peter; I forgave. I know you’re not perfect. I didn’t ask you to be perfect, I asked you to lead. You’re still here; leaders don’t give up,” Jesus told the grieving man, putting a hand on his shoulder. “Let’s try it one more time, Peter. Do you love me?”

Peter rolled over onto his knees and knelt before Jesus. “Lord, you already know everything about me, the good and the bad…and the weak. But mostly, Jesus, I hope you know how much I love you.”

Placing both of his nail-scarred hands on Peter’s shoulders, Jesus said, Peter, give all you have to those who seek to know the way, the truth, and the life I’ve given you.” Jesus gently punched Peter in the arm, causing him to look up. “You’ve got what it takes, Peter!” Jesus smiled, “Oh, and by the way, I love you too!