The passage today is John chapter 21. Now, I like reading John so much, I don’t want to cut to the chase and just read a few key verses. I love reading scripture out loud. I love listening to it out loud. It’s usually better than preaching anyway! So I’m going to read most of it.
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
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.” He 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.” He 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
(John 21:1-19 ESV)
So lets set the context just a bit here. Peter ran to the tomb on Easter morning and saw it empty. Later, he and the other disciples met the risen Jesus briefly. But, Peter still doesn’t know what to do. He’s confused, he doesn’t know what it means, he doesn’t think anyone but his friends care that Jesus is (sort of) back anyway. He can’t keep doing what he has been doing the last three years. He’s afraid of the Romans, afraid of the Jewish leaders, and he’s probably very ashamed of having denied Jesus the night before he was executed. He still hasn’t dealt with that yet. We know about it from reading the scripture, but I really doubt he told any of the other disciples until afterwards. Peter could have stood by his master that night, but he threw him under the bus instead. Does Jesus want anything to do with him now? “I wouldn’t want anything to do with me.” he thinks.
So he hikes back up north to his hometown, dusts off his fishing boat and goes back to his day job. He’s trying to catch some fish, but he’s just not into it. Then, on the beach, Jesus appears again. “Oh my gosh! I’ve got to get back to him. I just can’t go back to my old life. He changed everything about my life. I’m a total mess without him. I don’t care what he thinks, I’ve got to go see him.”
There on the beach, Jesus restores Peter. His life changes forever. He never forgot this conversation with Jesus. It was a long time ago and we don’t have full records of everything Peter did in the years afterwards, but what we do have show us a man that really had lost all fear. He no longer cared what people thought about him. He didn’t care what the oppressive government thought. (Then eventually killed him too.) He didn’t care what the religious leaders thought. He didn’t care what his family thought. He didn’t try to build up his career or buy a new fishing boat. He never denied Jesus again. All the terrible pain of that moment had been erased by this man who had come back from the dead and forgiven him. He thought absolutely all was lost – that his mistake would haunt him and stick with him the rest of his life. Any rational person would think so. But it didn’t. He failed at life, but he got it all back. Jesus came back, had lunch with him, and gave it all back to him.
Wouldn’t you like to receive the same thing Peter got that day? Have you failed at life? Do you have a failed marriage? A career that got torpedoed, probably by yourself? Do you dread family gatherings at Christmas because your father and mother never say anything nice to you? Have you really screwed up? Did someone really screw you over? This is all due to us living in a broken sinful world. No amount of wishful thinking and mental gymnastics can patch this up. The gospel has no weight if Jesus is not really risen. Peter knew He had been – the Lord was right there in front of his face. He couldn’t have explained how that changed everything right then and there, but he knew it did for his life. We are more distant from the event – very distant now in fact, so we have to believe without seeing (blessed are we!), and there is no shortage of people on the sidelines who may laugh at us part of the way.