Can We Be New?
DreamWorks movie, Hoosiers is the story of Hickory Indiana's high school basketball team. Gene Hackman, the coach asks Dennis Hopper who is an alcoholic named Shooter be his assistant coach, and soon Shooter is on the bench. Shooter's life has been marked by failure after failure but he loves basketball and he has a knowledge and passion that is amazing.
Hackman decides to see what Shooter is made of about an hour into the movie. He the gets himself thrown out of the game leaving Shooter in charge. This goes against the agreement Shooter had thought he'd worked out when he told the coach, You've got to give me your word, that you will not be kicked out of no games!"
The end near and the score tied, there is a timeout and in the team huddle, all eyes are on Shooter, including his son's, who never thought his dad should be in this position in the first place. Shooter is scared. He can't speak. Finally, his son says, "You reckon number four will put up their last shot, Dad?" That seems to jump-start Shooter, and he haltingly calls a play. The team goes back on the floor and begins to execute it when Shooter calls another time out.
Now, completely engaged in the game, his knowledge and passion overwhelm his fear. "All right? We're gonna run the picket fence at 'em. Merle, you're the swingman. Jimmy, you're solo right. All right, Merle should be open swinging around the end of that fence. Now boys, don't get caught watchin' that paint dry!"
They head back out onto the floor confident. The play is run with perfection. And of course, they win the game. During the following celebration, Shooter's son looks into his Dad's eyes and says, "You did good, Pop. You did real good."
A weak, shame-filled alcoholic did real good because the coach decided he was worth the risk. Now consider Peter. He had failed too. He ran away. He denied he knew Jesus. He was proud, boasting of how much he cared for Jesus. He was insightful, when open to the Holy Spirit. He spoke out of turn, said the wrong thing at the wrong time in general acted like most of us. Yet Jesus, in this chapter offers Peter another chance.
Read John 21:1-19
Early morning and these guys had caught nothing all night. A figure on the shore directs them to cast their nets one more time and 153 large fish are netted. These guys had been here before it had to be Jesus. So, while they start hauling in the net Peter throws his robe back on and jumps out of the boat to see for himself. Landing the net, Jesus invites them to grab some of their fish and join him for breakfast.
Why do you think it says, "None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord"? Do you think he looked differently than the last time they saw him or might it be that they were overwhelmed once more by His glorified presence. There is something different about the risen Christ. Locked doors don't keep Him out but he is physical because he breaks bread and his wounds can be felt. He's not a ghost. He's not a specter. He is the glorified Jesus, the one who we see being honored in Revelation 5.
Many of us have heard and read about this after-breakfast talk between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asks Peter do you love me. Three times Peter says you know I love you Lord. We may even remember how Jesus and Peter use different words for "love". Jesus asks if Peter willfully loves him and will do whatever it necessary to continue to love him. Peter answers that Jesus is his comrade, his closest ally, his bud. Then, Jesus comes down to Peter's level and uses the same word Peter has, and Peter gets it. As Peter hears the same question this third time, he's cut deep. Yet the command is the same; feed my lambs, care for my sheep.
Can we be new? Can we start over? Can we get a fresh start on life? With Jesus, the answer is yes! God has made a way for us, you and me, to have a "do-over" in life. You know what a "do-over" is? When you're a kid and maybe you hit a foul ball, or can't serve the volleyball over a net, your friend will yell at you "do over". Jesus is the means to the greatest do-over ever, remember last week's passage from Revelation 1? "He who loves us, who freed us from our sin by his blood", is God's message of a new beginning for us.
Revelation 5:11-14 is one of the scenes where we people are singing to Jesus. Tens of thousands of angels; the elders; and every creature, not just humans, are praising Jesus. Why? Because he deserves it. No one else can offer us forgiveness. No one else can take us from being at war with God to being a friend of Jesus. Nothing else can promise us eternal life. He's it.
Our culture is a great believer in human ingenuity and intelligence. All we need to make it is the right car, medicine, deodorant, or political leader. The fact is, the facts keep changing. In our world of inviolable truth; truth gets twisted, re-discovered and found to be faulty. Just a quick example from this week's news, ethanol a green alternative is apparently worse when it comes to air pollution according to a study at Stanford University.[i] Our culture doesn't have the answer to new life. Jesus alone has it. And that's why he deserves our praise and honor.
If you understand this then you probably realize that becoming new doesn't begin with us but with God. Anyone in a recovery program knows the first step is admitting we're not in control that we are powerless to make the changes that are needed. Beyond this, we have to be in conversation with Jesus. That doesn't mean we talk and Jesus listens. It doesn't mean God talks and we ignore Him. It means we are engaged, like Peter and Jesus, in meaningful deep talks about our lives and Jesus' expectations for us.
Coming to the realization that is okay to hurt when confronted by Jesus is part of newness for many people. There is the pain that comes from realizing just what it means that Jesus died for me. There is a pain that strikes us deep when we realize our lies, lust, addictions, hatreds and the rest caused the whip marks of Jesus' back and the nail prints in his hands. There is a pain and perhaps a sense of fear when we realize that if Jesus takes over control of our lives that they will be different, and that He, not us, will be in charge.
Like getting rid of a bad head cold, the relief Jesus offers us is transforming. It takes us from a place of darkness and sets us before His throne where we too can sing praise Him. Let me encourage you to take the first step this morning and realize that God's mercy is able to make you new, to transform your life and offer you hope where there has been none. Amen.
[i]http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070418/ap_on_he_me/ethanol_health_risks;_ylt=ArD3ulmoi46qqM0plGNfeGZZ24cA accessed April 18, 2007