Still confused, afraid, and aimless after the death of Jesus, Peter reverts to the familiar…”I’m going fishing,” he says.
After hours of no fish, a voice from ashore instructs them to cast their nets on the right side. Suddenly John recognizes Him. “It is the Lord!” Impulsive Peter jumps overboard to swim to Jesus. The charcoal fire already going, Jesus makes breakfast with bread and the newly caught fish. It is beautiful and familiar and just feels right. This is the third time the resurrected Jesus has appeared to him. But I imagine deep in the pit of Peter’s stomach he is wondering if the elephant in the room is going to be addressed. I wonder if the pretending nothing happened is killing him. He doesn’t have to wait long…
Flashback: The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” (John 18:17)
On the shore: 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.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15
Flashback: Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” (John 18:25)
On the shore: He [Jesus] said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” (John 21:16)
Flashback: One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. (John 18:26-27) Luke’s account tells us Peter remembered what Jesus said and went out and wept bitterly.
On the shore: He [Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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.” (John 21:17)
Three times Peter denies Jesus… and three times Jesus offers Peter the chance to express his love and gives him a mission. God is so gracious in His love, forgiveness, and constant pursuit of us. Our ability to serve Him isn’t based on our successes, but on His. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called. But Jesus also tells Peter what his life will look like living for Him and what kind of death he will experience. With such a heavy calling, Jesus wants him to know what he is getting into. A life lived for the gospel isn’t always an easy one, but it is the most fulfilling and rewarding. “And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” The same invitation that was given three years earlier remains, though this time through a new lens of what the good news and following Jesus looks like.
And this would be such a beautiful end to Peter’s story with Jesus on earth, but Peter is still Peter. I’ve said this before…I love that Peter was chosen as a disciple and I love that his quirks and missteps and failures are preserved for people like me. Immediately after this encounter with Jesus, Peter turns to John and asks Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus simply replies, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
Even in the midst of a wonderful calling, why are we tempted to look to the right or left and compare the calling and circumstances of others? Instead of gratitude and diligence in our charge, why do we look at anyone else and wonder, “why aren’t they suffering?”, “why don’t I have what they have?”, “why do they get to do that?”, “what about me?”
The truth is…it isn’t about us. We get to play a part in God’s incredible story, but it is all for His glory. We are all created in His image and likeness. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. We are all created for good works. We were made on purpose for a purpose. Our mistakes and circumstances don’t define us; they refine us. But of others, “what is that to you, [insert name]?” Our charge: “You, [insert name], follow me!”
(I can’t wait to start Acts with you guys tomorrow and see the power given to Peter and the others…to us! I can’t wait to watch Peter become who God ordained him to be, despite himself! Who’s still with me?)
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