“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:5 NIV)
Peter is the paradigmatic disciple in the Gospels. He is willing to stand up and to speak up, even when he ends up with his foot in his mouth. But Peter is a gift to the church and to the readers of the Gospels, not least because we get to see the work of Jesus in his life and gain insight into our own relationship with Christ.
As Jesus was being tried and sentenced to death, three times Peter denied having known him or having been his disciple. Jesus had predicted this. He experienced a deep sense of grief at what he had done and was ashamed of himself afterward.
In John 21, we have a rare account of a post-resurrection appearance of Christ. He shows up while Peter and some of the guys are out fishing. He is on the shore. He directs them to the biggest catch on the lake that day. Once they arrive back on shore, Jesus is cooking some fish over a campfire.
Reading these passages of scripture together, what enemy, what hostility might we be addressing? I submit that Peter’s unresolved issue of having denied Jesus is functioning as a hostile opponent of his soul at this point in the story. Our residual feelings of guilt and shame can lay buried under a thin layer of “moving on” from our sin without working through them.
Jesus met Peter in order to do restoration work on Peter’s soul. Three times he asks Peter if he loves him. Three times Peter replies in the affirmative, with increasing desperation to be believed. Three times Jesus reiterates Peter’s calling: “feed my sheep.”
When Peter’s guilt and shame stood against him, Jesus began the work of restoration, fittingly, by preparing a table before him. He did so physically, and he did so spiritually. Jesus wants to do the same for you and me.
Exercise: Do you have unconfessed sin in your life? Guilt and shame can be awful oppressors. Lay them down at the feet of Jesus. He comes to restore and make you whole. All you need do is empty your hands of them so you make room to receive his mercy. In prayer, clench your fists, bringing your issues to mind. Then slowly release your fists, loosening your fingers’ strain, and allow the cup of your soul to overflow with the mercy of Christ.
Prayer: God, I carry burdens even though you’ve invited me to lay them down. Thank you for preparing a table of welcome in the presence of my enemies, even when I am my own worst enemy! Help me receive the restoring grace you offer in Christ. Amen.