Dead leaves in springtime
BY JIMMY NUNN
There are varieties of trees that hold their leaves throughout the winter and early spring. The crusty, paper-thin, pale brown leaves maintain their grip in the same manner that old ways cling to us. But even those stubborn, dead leaves must give way to the new buds.
In late spring, the emergence of new life in those trees is a parable of resurrection.
Jesus’ lakeshore encounter with Peter is one of the Gospels’ stories about what happened after the resurrection.
Peter had failed Jesus. He had stood among people beside a charcoal fire, after Jesus’ arrest, and three times he had denied knowing Jesus (John 18).
The sting of those failures clung to him like dead leaves. He was filled with guilt and shame.
We read in John 21 that the resurrected Jesus helped the disciples catch a massive number of fish.
As the men neared shore with their catch, they saw Jesus cooking breakfast on a charcoal fire. I can imagine the unsettled feelings Peter must have had as they approached.
Would Jesus accept him? How would he react to Peter’s failures?
This is what happened: Three times, Jesus asked Peter if he loved him.
And each time Peter replied, "Yes."
Asking the questions about Peter’s love, Jesus cleared the way for new growth to occur. Like springtime buds bursting forth, Jesus commissioned Peter to feed his sheep and lambs.
New beginnings occur when old roadblocks are cleared. Jesus tells Peter to follow him.
But Peter was not yet ready to begin a new journey following Jesus. It intrigues me that the first thing Peter did after hearing the command to follow Jesus was turn, look behind him, and ask, "What about him?" (John 21:21 CEV).
This is true for you and me as well. We are unable to follow Jesus when we set our sights on someone or something else. We cannot follow Jesus by looking backward.
Those brittle, dead leaves from last year that won’t let go illustrate Peter’s question that betrayed those feelings he still harbored.
When Jesus saw Peter’s distraction, he asked, "What difference does that make to you? Follow me" (John 21:22 CEV).
Following Jesus is a life directed by God; looking backward is a life dictated by circumstance.
Looking to Jesus supports a life lived by principles; looking behind is a life subdued by pressure.
Looking to Jesus means being led by the Holy Spirit; looking behind implies being lost in the wilderness.
The miracle of Easter is that Jesus Christ is risen! The power of the resurrection is affirmed when we release to God those things that are obstacles to grace.
Don’t dwell on the past. Don’t become imprisoned by circumstances. Don’t get lost in the wilderness. Christ is risen!
Just as the new growth on a tree can be easily seen, so also may your life reflect a deeper walk with Christ. May you grow in wisdom, shrink in opinion; increase in gratitude, diminish in pride; show more mercy and less harshness; reflect God’s love and overcome selfishness.
God transforms old hurts into spiritual assets.
Christ the Lord is risen! Alleluia!
An enthusiastic reader, Bishop Jimmy Nunn has agreed to suggest books that he finds influential. His first recommendations: a trilogy of titles by Bishop Robert Schnase.
- "Five Practices of Fruitful Living," for individuals
- "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations," for churches
- "Seven Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences," for Conference leadership