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Readings

Reading: John 21:1-19

Devotional

As a young boy leaving the house to go out for the evening my mother would often say to me, ‘mine I guid Lord is iwiz wachin ye’. For those unfamiliar with the Doric accent of North East Scotland, the translation reads; ‘Remember, Jesus is always watching you!’ I guess there can be two ways to view this declaration. To have Jesus constantly watching ‘over me’ is a good thing and the pilgrims returning to Jerusalem sang as much from their ‘songs of accent’ hymn book.

The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.Psalm 121:5-8

The Lord ‘watching over’ us, is a beautiful assurance to our souls reminding us we have an omnipotent God watching out for us causing the Psalmist to assert ‘my help comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth’ (v2). However, the prompt from my mum was not meant to be an assurance of protection but, rather a suggestion of judgement. The omnipresence of God was a tool to control me. As a young lad starting to break free of the constant presence of my parents ‘controlling’ me and heading off to all the temptations the world had to offer, the all-seeing eye of Jesus replaced that of my parents. Looking back that sense of fear did keep me from indulging in some unsavoury actions. But the ‘sin’ I did commit, I endeavoured to hide it from my parents and hope that God wouldn’t grass on me.

From the moment Eve was deceived in the garden of Eden into eating the forbidden fruit by the serpent and Adam chose a relationship with his wife over his relationship with God, shame has dominated our existence. When God came calling to walk with his creation, for the first time Adam and Eve tasted the emotion of shame before a holy God and went into hiding.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.Genesis 3:8

Ever since we have been endeavouring to hide our shame from God and from each other. We retreat into a lonely world constructed by the fear of being ‘found out’, often spiralling down in a cycle of fear and disappointment, resulting regularly in self-loathing believing the lie that God hates us. Having read yesterday of Peter’s unhappy fulfilment of Jesus’ prediction of denial, today we jump out of our readings in Matthew and fast forward to a moment captured by John post Resurrection Day.

Seven of the disciples follow Peter back into the family business and set off looking for fish in the Sea of Galilee. Having spent a discouraging night throwing and hauling nets the fish-hold was bare. A stranger shouts from the shore suggesting they fish on the other side of the boat. I guess the startling thing is, they actually did it! After all, they were the experts. What did this guy know? Why on earth would throwing nets out the other side of the boat make any difference? It was ridiculous! Maybe they did it to prove a point, we don’t know, but on doing it they caught a gigantic catch, 153 ‘large fish’ to be exact. It would seem that John recognises what has just happened as a miracle and in doing so recognises that the ‘stranger’ must be Jesus. What happens next seems a little strange with little help offered by the text. Peter throws or casts himself into the sea. Some have suggested in his excitement he dove into the sea and swam to shore before the rest of the disciples. Although we can’t be sure, ‘throwing himself’ (Matthew uses that same word that is translated ‘cast’ just a few moments earlier, ‘ballo’.) into the sea may have been more about Peter hiding in shame than joyful excitement.

What happens to Peter next is wonderful in the extreme. Jesus meets Peter’s secret shame with public mercy, love and compassion. He walks back Peter’s three crushing denials forcing him to dig deep into his heart past the shame into the deep love Peter had for his saviour. Right in front of his peers, Jesus did not magnify the shame Peter already felt so keenly but revealed the passionate love burning inside his servant. This act of unrelenting love restored a defeated and depressed disciple to take on the first sermon slot on the day of Pentecost as God’s mystery, the Bride of Christ, The Church, made its appearance on earth and 3000 people were baptised.

Prayer

Lord, I am so thankful that you are always watching over me every minute of every day and I thank you for your care and protection. I know that you have seen me fail you, like Peter, many times and I thank you for each time that you have listened to my confession and faithfully and compassionately forgiven me. With Peter, I say, you know that I love you! Strengthen me through the Holy Spirit to defeat the plan of the enemy in my life, to release me from my shame and pursue life, empowered by your unrelenting grace, following you. Amen.

Based on today's reading, what is one thing God is saying to you?

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