Summary: Peter blew it, that’s for certain. He denied the Lord three times. But in Chapter 21 we see the gentle way Jesus restores Peter to fellowship and purpose. He does the same for us.
Do you ever fail Jesus? John the Apostle said “1 John 1:8-9 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” One of the most common experiences we as Christians share is the reality that we will fall. No matter how hard we try we will do things that are against he character of God. Yes, we have forgiveness. John goes on to say that “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But is that enough to undo the nagging feeling that we have let Jesus down?
After all, Jesus gave his all for us. When we don’t give our all for him we feel deflated and like he wouldn’t want to hang out with us anymore and that we should just fade into the woodwork and forget trying to really serve Him.
If you have ever experienced that feeling then John 21 is for you. If anyone can say they know what it is like to fail Jesus it is the Apostle Peter. Peter, the one who proclaimed most loudly his loyalty to Jesus was the only one who openly denied knowing Him in front of witnesses.
Let’s look at the account of that in Luke 22:54-62. Peter let the Lord down and knew it. He wept bitterly over it (unlike Judas, who went out and killed himself). Jesus appeared to Peter alone (vs 34) but we don’t know what He said. He appeared to the disciples with Peter present but He said nothing at that meeting about the incident. I wonder if chapter 21 of John represents lingering feelings of failure on the part of Peter. Jesus comes in His last recorded visit in John to the disciples and singles out Peter. The words He speaks I think made a huge difference in Peter’s life and can in ours as we struggle with the feeling we have failed Jesus too!
1 – 3
You can just picture this. Peter never knew when Jesus would appear. He’d told them to be His witnesses but they’d received no marching orders. I wonder if Peter started thinking that he was simply no longer worthy of being used of the Lord—that he’d done something so terrible that someone else ought to step up and take his place (in reality that just where the Lord wanted him).
So Peter goes back to what he knows: fishing. But just as with us, once you turn your life over to Jesus, looking for fruitfulness in your old life is like going fishing with me, you can be sure you will never catch a thing.
So here they are, empty handed after a long night’s work and then in the dawning light they hear a voice calling them from the shore and see someone standing there, offering some fishing tips.
4 – 6
Everyone knows that the worst question to ask a fisherman is “caught anything?” I love their answer: “NO!”. They didn’t even bother talking about the ones that got away. “Try it on the other side” Jesus says “and you will some.” It is unusual that these professional fishermen would take advice from a landlubber. Jesus tells them to go to the other side, the side they shouldn’t expect to catch fish on. Finding a lot more than “some” they get a haul. 153 fish – notice that John remembers that detail, but doesn’t even recall the names of all the disciples.
But isn’t it cool how Jesus works? He directs our lives to work in areas where you wouldn’t normally go to find fruit in unexpected places. Just because Jesus prompts you to work in places that you might not think would bear mammoth amounts of fruit, you should do it anyway. That might mean ministering to that lonely neighbor or teaching that small class or ministering in a small church. Jesus is in charge of the catch.
So anyway, as soon as John sees the unusual haul he realizes the stranger on the shore is no stranger at all. (Luke 5 records another time Jesus did this with Peter)
7 – 8
So I just wonder if here again the little rivalry between John and Peter comes out. John notes that it was he who recognized that it was Jesus but that Peter throws on some clothes and jumps into the water, leaving John to pull in all the fish. No wonder he remembered how many they caught!
Just a side note: when you are going about your “normal” activities, do you expect to see Jesus arrive on the scene? Or are you, like the disciples, surprised that He would show up in everyday life?
I do love the fact that despite his failures, Peter rushes to be at Jesus’ side. Do we do the same?