Today's spring covered the Vinca and the sandbox in three inches of snow. A frozen laboratory for learning about plants; seedlings planted in windowsill cups just yesterday. A boy and I working a winter themed crossword puzzle. Scrawling hot chocolate on the shopping list. This is not what spring was two days ago. Not what it ever should be according to shivering Alium and Daylily and Columbine.
Cupping Jasmine Green Tea in a blanket while finishing the book of John with that final contrasting scene on the beach: Peter's dip in the water, crackling bonfire breakfast, sunshine, a brother made new. Not like our here-and-now when everything that was coming to life is buried again.
Peter gets a do-over. Three chances to counter with love the denial three times asserted. Young John admires this whole conversation. It was important.
He's told his story of Jesus using His proper name over and over, I AM. "The name conveys the concept of absolute being, the One who is and whose dynamic presence works on our behalf. It conveys the meanings of 'I am who and what I am, and I do not change. I am here with you and for you.'"1
The bread of life. The light of the world. The door. The good shepherd. The resurrection and the life. The way, the truth and the life. The true vine.
Peter took all the names to heart, again and again, contrasting himself with the One he followed, hoping to connect the dots at some point. But at the climactic arrest he still misinterprets Jesus, wanting to defend and take by force the kingdom that could only be given by love. Oh, Peter. We all make Jesus in our own image sometimes.
He was bread and light and resurrection and truth? A door, a shepherd, a vine? How is this a king? How was a king's self-appointed governor to fit himself into those images? He cannot. When it all came down, Peter's loudest confession grievously contrasted with his first. "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (Or as John records it, "You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One Of God.") becomes, "I Am not." I am not like him. I am not a representative. I am not here with him. I am not for him.
Perhaps this was the confession that changed Peter's life. I am helpless, impulsive and self-preserving. I am not able. I am not knowledgeable. I am not a duplicate. This is where Jesus could make a start. On the beach, the Little Rock washes to shore shaped by years, and more recently days, of rapids and depths. He's ripe for forgiveness and filling. He knows what he is not and now Jesus tells him what his love makes him:
A shepherd, like his master
A feeder, like the bread.
A keeper, like the door.
"If you're going to do any single solitary thing as a follower and servant of Jesus, this is what it's built on. Somewhere, deep down inside, there is a love for Jesus, and though (goodness knows) you've let him down enough times, he wants to find that love, to give you a chance to express it, to heal the hurts and failures of the past, and give you new work to do."2
"I am not" is what comes out when we are squeezed by the never-ending, incomparable love of the "I Am." It's perhaps the turning point for us all if we can constrain ourselves to say it.
1 Wiersbe, Warren W. Jesus in the Present Tense. David C. Cook, Colorado Springs. 2011. ebook p. 20.
2 Wright, Nicholas Tomas. John for Everyone, Part 2. Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge: London. 2002. p. 165.