Once upon a time Otis Nixon was a terrible baseball player. How do I know? My K-Mart manager and I kept getting his 1988 Topps baseball card out of the vending machine that entertained us at break time. The number still astounds me: .059 was his 1987 batting average. We started following his Expos career. We were on Otis Nixon watch. Finally he was featured on Baseball Tonight. A pitch had bounced several feet in front of the plate. Otis had swung hard for strike three. It bounced so wildly he had a chance to advance to first on a dropped third strike. But then Otis fell flat on his face in the dirt. They kept showing it over and over: “first he can’t hit, then he can’t run.” It was bad. Oh how the Otis had fallen. Flat on his face.
Maybe that’s how Simon Peter felt after the resurrection. Not once but three times he was asked if he followed Jesus. Not once but three times he denied knowing him. It got, shall we say, complicated. It was a long cold night as Simon Peter tried in vain to warm himself around a charcoal fire. Finally the cock crowed as the sun rose and his humiliation was complete. In front of the world. In front of Jesus. He utterly failed. Maybe he was damaged goods. Jesus had risen. But Simon Peter’s life was still on hold. He told his friends: I’m going fishing! So they joined him in the water. All. Night. Long. Nothing. They caught zero fish. Nada. The sun was rising once again. Once again it was reminding Simon Peter what an utter failure he was. He can’t even fish anymore. A kind voice from the shore said “try the other side of the boat”. And then something happened…
The Atlanta Braves came calling for Otis Nixon. They saw something nobody else could see. They gave him a shot on a winning team. With a new purpose Otis gave his all. People still remember “the catch”. Andy Van Slyke had hit a monster shot a foot above the wall for a sure home run. But Otis was not having any of that. He jumped high. He planted his cleat on the wall. He jumped far above the wall and snagged that ball out of the night sky. ESPN played it over and over and over, erasing the bad memories. He went on to play in the World Series with the Braves as a career .270 hitter. Not bad.
The weight of Simon Peter’s net nearly pulled him out of the boat. They had snagged the mother lode. Someone said, “It’s the Lord!” Peter ran to shore and Jesus was cooking breakfast around a charcoal fire. (Yeah now that Jesus was a stickler for bringing things full circle.) The risen Jesus cooking you breakfast. Not bad. Has asked Simon to bring some of the fish he had caught. Then he asked something else of Simon. Three times. Do. You. Love. Me? Each time Simon said yes, Jesus gave him a mission: Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. It hurt. But Jesus was helping Simon face the past and move forward. Fishing wasn’t the thing anymore. People were the thing. Other people. Simon Peter went on to the big leagues of apostleship. He healed some beggers. Preached some pretty awesome sermons. Got it wrong some days. But got it right, too. He laid down his life like his master did. John 18-21, the Book of Acts and 1-2 Peter tell the story in all its glory. John 21:1-19 are featured in the glorious art above. I found it here. Our lives can have a high purpose if we don’t get distracted by failure. Otis Nixon has been battling some demons in recent years. But I’m pulling for him. There is always one who believes in us. Jesus. With Jesus there is always hope and a future. Often there is no happily ever after, even with Jesus. Instead, each day we get the same opportunity. Jesus offers each one of us a simple two word mission: follow me. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s take care of people in Jesus’ name.