Easter – A Day of Second Chances

Everyone deserves a second chance. This is a saying I’ve heard since I was a little boy. Actually as a little boy, I thought I had invented this saying, I employed it so frequently. I’m not sure everyone deserves a second chance, but we all want one.

Emily Gibbs wanted a second chance in Thornton Wilder’s play, “Our Town.” Emily had died in childbirth and restlessly took her place in the cemetery of Grover ’s Corners, New Hampshire . In a moment of silence it came to her that one could go back and experience a second time a day of her choice. She chose her twelfth birthday. The problem is she can only watch life being lived with all of its misplaced priorities. She protests to her mother who can’t hear her, “Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s look at each other.” Remorse sets in as Emily announces, “I didn’t realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed.” It was Wilder’s plea for the audience to accept the second chance he was giving us.

Everyone may not deserve a second chance or even want a second chance, but I firmly believe everyone needs a second chance. Have I got good news for you - Easter is a day for second chances. The first nineteen verses of John 21 are full of second chances.

Easter offers a second chance at excitement as Peter and his friends had spent the whole night fishing and got shut out, not one fish. Then to make matters worse a spectator shows up on the shoreline, apparently well rested and fresh, a stark contrast to their sleep deprived, grumpy state. “Hey guys, you haven’t caught anything, have you?” The question expects a negative response and it gets one. “No.” They said without elaboration or excitement. The bystander apparently sees something they do not, “Cast your net on the right side. You’ll catch something.”

Excitement!! The net pulls and jerks in every direction. 153 fish! All keepers! Now it would be good to note that never in the gospels do the disciple catch fish without Jesus. Remember, when Jesus first met the disciples there was a miraculous catch, so that the net tore, but this was a second chance. The net held. John whispered to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” Excitement!! Peter jumped in the water and swam to Jesus. The first time they met Peter said, “Get away from me, for I’m a sinful man!” But this is a second chance; he got there as fast as he could.

When was the last time you were “Jump up and down, scream your lungs out, tearing up” excited? Everyone needs a second chance at that. Easter offers a second chance at excitement as we get swept up in the miracle and find ourselves whispering, shouting, and crying with excitement. “It’s the Lord!”

It’s not just excitement. This Easter story provided Peter with a second chance for an exchange with Jesus who gave him as many times to express his love (three) to Jesus by the fire as the times he had denied Jesus beside another fire, on the night Jesus was arrested. Peter also received a second chance to live into the expectations of Jesus, expectations to follow him, the real Messiah, not Peter’s vision of the Messiah, the real Messiah one who is humble and a servant to those he loves. 

Poor Emily Gibbs, up on Cemetery Hill in Grover’s Corners, aware of missed opportunities, but unable to do anything about it, out of second chances. Oh, Easter is a day for second chances and everyone needs a second chance. Amen.

 

John 21:1-19

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius ; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4  Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6 He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9   When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15   When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17 He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

Rev. Kip Gilts is the Central North District Superintendant in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (Houston, Texas area).

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