The Lavish Love of God
Yesterday, as we all were celebrating Valentine's Day, I was reflecting on the ultimate example of love. The love that God our Father has lavished on us is inconceivable. He paid the ultimate price for us, and it is because of His extensive love for us that he was willing to die on the cross for our sins. Thinking about his love, I was drawn to a certain story in John that I recently spent time studying.
Over the last few weeks, Josh, the kids and I have been doing a 21-day Bible challenge with our Small Group from church. We were challenged to read 1 chapter a day from the Gospel of John. We all know that 21 days makes a habit, and ironically the book of John has 21 chapters. A great tool we used is the Biblegateway.com audible section. Each morning on the way to school, I plugged my phone into the audio cable of my car, and we listened as a man read 1 chapter of John each day. The reading wasn't more than 5-6 minutes usually, and we still had time to reflect on it as we finished the drive to school. It was an amazing way to start our day, and I fielded a lot of really good questions from my kids.
In the last chapter of John, there is the perfect example of just how much Jesus loved his disciples. It is a story that I didn't know until I attended a Women's conference last year, and every time I encounter it, I get goosebumps. As I delve further and further into God's Word, my understanding of His love for me gets deeper and deeper. Honestly, it's almost incomprehensible.
In John 21, we see several apostles fishing off the shore of a beach. Jesus, who at first was unrecognizable to them, calls out for them to throw their nets to the other side of the boat. When they follow His instruction, their nets become so heavy with fish they can barely get their haul into the boat. John looks up and realizes it is Jesus and cries out to Peter, "It is the Lord" (John 21:7). The apostle who had previously denied Jesus three times before the crucifixion sees Jesus at the beach and immediately takes off in the water to greet him. Here's my favorite part of this whole story. Jesus was waiting for them on the beach with a "fire of burning coals," fish and some bread. He was awaiting the apostles' company, and had prepared for them a warm fire, and some food to fill them up. He knew the apostles were tired and weary, and he thought of them first as he prepared this fire on the beach.
If you read this story and don't know any other context from the Bible, you understand God's desire to have company with his disciples. Before He ascended into Heaven, he spent time with the apostles, and prepared a feast for them on the shore of the beach. His love and hospitality is seen in this last chapter of John. But the beauty of this story goes way deeper than just that one verse.
Let's go back to John 18:18 right before the crucifixion of Christ. In this chapter, Jesus is arrested and Peter followed behind to watch it unfold. If you remember, the Lord had already told Peter he would deny Him three times. John 18: 17-we see a girl on duty saying to Peter, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" He replies that he is not. Now, pay attention to this verse John 18:18-"It was cold and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm. Peter also standing with them, warming himself." The first time Peter denies Jesus, he is warming himself by a fire.
Now fast forward to John 18: 25-As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, "You are not one of his disciples, are you?" He denied it saying, "I am not." Here is the 2nd time we see Peter denying Jesus, and in the background, he was warming himself by a fire.
This is where I get goosebumps. Peter denied Jesus multiple times and in the background he was warming himself by the fire as he was questioned. Despite those denials, Jesus returns and welcomes Peter to the beach and in the background has a fire waiting for him. Do you see the lavish love here? Here is an apostle that blatantly ignored his relationship with Jesus and yet Jesus returned to show His love for him and to call him to "feed his sheep."
We are all a little like Peter, aren't we? I know that I'm guilty of it. I have to make sure I'm not denying Jesus. I know I wouldn't blatantly deny Him, but I do know it can happen in subtle ways. Anytime we choose "the world" over Him, we're denying Him. Anytime we choose sin, we're denying Him. We can deny Him in our speech, our actions, our choices in life, how we spend our time and money, how we interact with others...there's lots of ways we can deny Him. I don't want to be like the Peter before the crucifixion. I want to be like the Peter that was running through the water trying to get to Jesus on the shore. I want to live my life in a way that proves I'm a child of God. After all, I have a Father that loves me unconditionally and is waiting for me on that shore!