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Summary: We can learn a lot about our relationship with God by studying the life of Peter. His journey with Jesus is a study in contradictions.

Listening to Jesus beside the Sea

John 21:1–22

Sermon Series: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All

From the Bible-Teaching Ministry of Charles R. Swindoll


We can learn a lot about our relationship with God by studying the life of Peter. His journey with Jesus is a study in contradictions. In the midst of a raging storm, he impulsively climbed out of his boat at the invitation of Jesus to walk on water, only to divert his attention and sink like a stone (Matthew 14:28–30). His affirmation, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” brought him high praise and the prediction he would someday lead the church (16:13–19), but from that great height, he soon fell to receive a sharp rebuke (16:21–23). Then, after risking his life to defend his Master against a cohort of soldiers, he denied knowing Jesus to the rabble huddled in the courtyard at His trial (John 18:10, 17, 25–27).

But, after Jesus’s death and resurrection, a seaside reunion with the risen Lord changed everything. Peter learned that being a disciple requires one primary qualification: a willingness to follow.


1. “Follow Me.”

Simon’s brother, Andrew, had been a follower of John the Baptizer for some time when he first encountered Jesus. After witnessing the remarkable events surrounding Jesus’s baptism, Andrew took his brother to the man they would come to know as the Messiah (John 1:35–41). Soon after meeting Simon, Jesus gave him the name Peter (Cephas in Aramaic, Petros in Greek), which means “rock” (John 1:42).

Sometime later, perhaps after weeks or even months of interaction, Peter and his business associates were cleaning their nets by the Sea of Galilee after a long night of fishing. As they carried out the task, Jesus used Peter’s boat as a speaking platform.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ”Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:4–11)Peter’s reaction to the miracle of Jesus was similar to several Old Testament encounters (Exodus 20:19; 33:20; Judges 13:22; Job 42:5–6; Isaiah 6:5). When the simple fisherman recognized the divine power of Jesus, knowledge of his own sinfulness brought him to his knees, trembling with fear. Jesus responded to Peter’s act of worship and submission with two phrases: a reassurance and a call.

Peter had never been accused of being overly humble. In fact, throughout the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s ministry; Peter was frequently brash, quick to blurt out what others merely thought, impulsive, and let his emotions propel him through life.

On the night of Jesus’s arrest and trials, Peter warmed himself over a fire as the first trial of Jesus drew to a close. A relative of the man Peter had injured stood nearby, recognized him, and asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with [Jesus]?” (John 18:26). Peter’s vehement protest marked his third denial of Jesus that evening (18:27). Just then, as a rooster crowed in the distance, the door to the court chamber opened and Peter, gazing across the glowing embers of the fire, caught his Master’s eyes. Suddenly the weight of disappointment crushed the life out of him and he wept bitterly (Luke 22:60–62).

Shortly thereafter, a squad of executioners led Jesus to the outskirts of Jerusalem, stretched out His arms, and slowly killed Him. Three days later, He left the grave and began appearing to His many followers, including Peter and the other disciples. But after the flush of excitement had passed, an obvious question arose among the twelve who had left everything and followed Jesus—“What now?”

2. “I Am Going Fishing.” (John 21:1–14)

Peter, perhaps convinced that his failure had disqualified him from leadership, returned to the familiarity of his fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee, where at least he had a rudder to steer him through the tempest and where an honest day’s labor earned a decent catch of fish.

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