This Sunday Christians around the world will celebrate Easter Sunday, aka Resurrection Sunday, the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead, three days after being crucified by the Romans. This is the most important day on the Christian calendar. One important aspect of Jesus’ teaching was loving unconditionally. In other words, forgiving the faults and sins of others in spite of what they may truly deserve. This is why Christ went to the cross, died, and rose again for all mankind so that our sins would be forgiven, in spite of what we truly deserve.
Let me show you an example of where Jesus himself practiced unconditional love for someone who turned their back on him in his hour of need. I’m talking about Peter, one of his disciples. The Bible tells us in the Gospel of Mark 16: 5-7 on that first Easter: “As they entered the tomb they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side and they were alarmed. Don’t be alarmed he said. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go tell his disciples and Peter. He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.“
I want to hone in on the sentence: But go tell his disciples and Peter. That’s kind of an odd thing for the messenger to say. Why didn’t he simply say, Go tell his disciples. This shows an example of how to love others as Jesus would. The messenger delivered the message Jesus had given him to tell the disciples, so why single out Peter?
Wasn’t it that past week when Jesus had been arrested, just prior to him being crucified that Peter denied knowing Jesus, not just once, but three times. Talk about blowing it. Peter really outdid himself this time. When the chips were down, and Jesus really needed Peter to be faithful, Peter comes up short. Consider the guilt Peter must have been carrying especially after the Romans crucified Christ on the cross.
Peter, who had been with Jesus for three years, saw the miracles of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with two tiny fish and a couple loaves of bread, he saw the resurrection of Lazarus after he’d been dead in the grave for four days. He saw blind folks healed. Peter also experienced the miracle where Peter himself was walking on water with Jesus out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. If anyone should have had total faith in Jesus it should have been Peter. Yet, when the chips were down, Peter wimped out and said he never knew the man.
Jesus knows our hearts. He knew Peter’s. Jesus knew how guilty and sorry Peter was for his betrayal. Jesus also knew that if the messenger had only said, “But go tell my disciples,” Peter wouldn’t have come, because Peter figured there was no way that Jesus would ever forgive him of such a horrible sin. Jesus realizing all this, once again, showed his unconditional love for his bumbling friend Peter, by making sure that Peter realized in clear terms that he, Peter, was still one of Jesus’ disciples, in spite of what Peter had done. Jesus loved Peter in spite of Peter’s actions. Jesus didn’t make Peter grovel or beg for forgiveness. No, he simply forgave him.
That’s the unconditional Godly love that Jesus gives each one of us. Those of us who call the risen Jesus, our Lord are to give that same unconditional Godly love to others. Jesus set the standard for forgiveness. Even when on the cross in pain as he was dying, Jesus didn’t curse any of the Jews or Romans. He said, Father forgive them, they know not what they do. We as his disciples are called to love and forgive just as Jesus did on that first Easter over 2000 years ago.
A modern day example of this same sort of unconditional love happened on Oct. 2, 2006 when a one room Amish schoolhouse was shot up by Charles Roberts, who killed five girls between the ages of 6 to13. The thing that amazed the nation was how the Amish community forgave and ministered to the Robert’s family. Marie Roberts, Charles’ mother, wrote an open letter to her Amish neighbors thanking them for their forgiveness, grace, and mercy. She wrote, “Your love for our family has helped to provide the healing we so desperately need.
So as we enjoy celebrating the risen Christ this Easter Sunday, let us also reflect on how we as his followers today are living our lives. Are we living a life where others outside of the church would describe us as people who give unconditional love and forgiveness to others. My guess is, just as with myself, all of us could use some improvement in this area of our lives.
Mike Cannatelli lives in suburban Wilmington with his wife. He repairs electronic instrumentation the food industry uses to detect bacteria in food. He plays supper club music on the piano and is a voracious reader who is a registered Independent voter.