As we work through the Easter season on the liturgical calendar, be sure to check out our Monday reflection and scripture readings as you follow along. Thanks for reading!
The great stories have so much to them, it is hard to wrap up all the loose ends. While the ending of a great story leaves you wanting more and more, there is a desire to know what fate lies for some of the main characters with the most at stake in the future. While typically unnecessary to the overall plot of the story, the reader is given some solace in the fact their favorite characters’ adventures were not in vain.
While the synoptic gospels offer a hint of what is to come for the disciples, only the book of John offers a true epilogue to the story. If you look at the end of chapter 20, the gospel could have easily ended there. Yet, John felt the need for Peter and the other disciples to have one last encounter with Jesus the other gospels did not mention. The apostle shared a simple story that, in my estimation, brings the enormity of resurrection into the relationship Jesus shared with his disciples.
Imagine if chapter 21 never happened and the book ended at chapter 20 (which a casual reading could imply anyways) leaving Peter’s standing with Jesus up in the air. Peter had denied Jesus three times after saying he would go with him to the grave. In short, Peter did exactly the opposite of what he said he would do. He went from being a bold disciple willing to cut the ear off a soldier to a spineless craven, willing to let his lord go on trial alone. His words did not line up with his actions and his betrayal, while not quite as impactful as Judas’, might have hurt just as much to Jesus.
What if Jesus rose from the grave and went back to heaven without ever “reinstating” Peter? What questions might linger for this disciple? How would he see himself? A coward? Unworthy to lead the Way?
One of the activities we do in our Teen Lifeline groups challenges the students to look forward in their lives and think about what they want to be known for someday. We ask them to reflect on their strengths as they dream about the qualities the possess could potentially affect the world around them as they become adults and leave a legacy. This is a powerful process, especially for students who have their identities shaped by their failures. Many teenagers we encounter have only been told they are troublemakers and burdens and so few have ever been able to think about what they could become.
Because, for so many of our students, the epilogue to their story looks bleak. It doesn’t really amount to much in the end. So, why try?
For Peter, I would imagine this encounter with Jesus was equally as important as the three years he spent with him in ministry. The lingering questions about his identity as a coward and failure were answered with a simple “feed my sheep”.
Peter’s epilogue was crucial to his leading of the early church. Jesus had a much better end to the story the Peter could have ever imagined.
So, think about where your story is taking you. How will your epilogue read? Will your failures and weaknesses be the last word? Or, will you allow Christ to speak truth about what you are becoming?
Today, live into that epilogue.