That first interaction is always awkward.
You look across the room at church, or at your kids’ school, or at a random restaurant – and there she is. It’s that person on the other side of a relationship, and you know there is something between you.
She was the one who was talking about you behind your back, and you found out about it. Or he was the one who yelled at you in the last conversation you had as you both walked away angry. Or she was the one who invited everyone else except you to that outing you then saw pictures of on social media.
Something has happened in your relationship, and now you’re face to face with them after that. Because you know what you know, and because you know what they know, the effect on you is immediate and, even physical. Your heart starts beating quickly anticipating those first few words. You start to sweat a little bit thinking about how they will respond to you. And you start to wonder if it’s too late to just duck your head and act like you didn’t see them so that you can prolong the awkwardness for as long as possible. Of course you know that the longer it goes without talking to that person, the more awkward it’s going to be when you finally do.
Can you relate?
If so, then you can relate to this as well – what a glorious thing it is that Jesus refuses to let it be awkward between you and He.
Consider the lead up to the events in John 21. Peter was convinced of his own conviction, so sure of his absolute allegiance to Jesus. Even when Jesus, at dinner, told Peter that he would deny him three times, Peter didn’t believe it. Not really, at least.
But then came the fire. The crowds. The accusations. And Peter couldn’t explain how quickly and embarrassingly he had lost his nerve. Three times asked – three times denied. Then the terrible rooster that woke him up, bringing him to his senses and making him realize just what he had done.
But three days had gone by, and Jesus was back. But Peter felt a twinge of guilt every time he thought about his friend. He knew he should be nothing but happy, but he couldn’t help being torn in another direction. The more he thought about it, he realized how stupid he had been to think he could ever really amount to much. It wasn’t just that single night of the crucifixion; he recalled with startling clarity the string of dumb mistakes he had made over the past 3 years. So when we pick up with Peter in John 21, he was right where we had met him at the first of the gospels – in a boat, fishing:
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer garment around him (for he was stripped) and plunged into the sea. 8 But since they were not far from land (about 100 yards away), the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.
10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus told them. 11 So Simon Peter got up and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish—153 of them. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus told them. None of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish (John 21:7-13).
Notice with me a few things about how Jesus handles this potentially awkward situation with Peter.
First of all, Jesus sought him out. While Jesus might have waited for Peter to come skulking back to him with his proverbial tail between his legs. Not only that, but Jesus served Peter and the others. It’s pretty amazing to consider that the Son of God did not consider it below Himself to prepare a meal for the very friends who had left Him alone in His hour of need. And then beyond that, He simply moved forward in relationship with Peter, commissioning to go and “Feed My sheep.”
Praise God, so it is with us. For today, I will wrong Jesus, and so will you. Today, we will give Him reason to make it awkward between us, as He looks down His nose at us, waiting for us to grovel and apologize in just the right way. And even when it happens, to still hold out some measure of forgiveness from us. But Jesus won’t make it awkward. He won’t avert His eyes from our presence. In fact, He will come and seek us out. He will serve us. And then He will move forward in relationship.
Because Jesus died for people like us. And it never has to be awkward again.