Today’s passage: John 21
Imagine yourself with Jesus on the night of his betrayal. The evening starts in an odd way – with Jesus washing your feet. And then He speaks about one of you – one of the twelve – betraying Him. He speaks about it matter of factly, saying that He’s telling you about it beforehand, so that when it happens you’ll believe that He is the Messiah. A little while later, he’s telling you that the time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and that God would be glorified because of Him. He speaks about only being with you for a little longer, and that you can’t go where He is going.
And then Peter pipes up: “Lord, where are you going?”
And Jesus replies, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.”
You notice that Jesus didn’t answer Peter’s question of where. But He seems to know where Peter is coming from. You listen as Peter replies: “But why can’t I come now, Lord? I’m ready to die for you.”
There it is. Typical Peter.
“Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
And that night, Jesus is arrested. And everyone – including Peter – runs away. But John has an in at the high-priest’s house, and gets Peter into the courtyard. But, with Jesus so close, Peter relentlessly pursues his own safety. Three times – three times! – he is identified as being one of Jesus’ followers. And three times he refuses to accept the accusation. The last time, he even calls down curses in an attempt to prove that he should just be left alone.
And the rooster crows. And Jesus looks at Peter. And Peter remembers what Jesus had said just a few hours before.
And he breaks down. And he leaves, weeping bitterly.
And then Jesus is executed. And Peter isn’t there. “I’d die with you” Peter isn’t there.
And then, three days later, the most amazing thing in all of history occurs: Jesus is resurrected. And Peter sees Him! And everyone’s caught up in the euphoria and the fear and the doubt and the questions and the delight. A few times, Peter sees Jesus alive.
But still there’s a cloud hanging over Peter. He failed Jesus. In Jesus’ darkest hour… he failed Him. Yes, Jesus was alive. But he had failed Jesus. And Jesus had expected him to fail. And Jesus knew that he had failed.
I wonder if Peter ever wondered why the angelic message to the first witnesses to the empty tomb was to tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus would meet them in Galilee. Why was Peter singled out?
This weekend, we’re looking at John 21, where we read of the meeting of Jesus and seven of his apostles in Galilee – actually on the shores of the lake. We read of these apostles heading out for a night’s fishing, only to be bitterly disappointed by a dearth of fish.
And we read of a man calling to them from the shore to throw their nets out once more on the right hand side of the boat. And we read of an incredible catch of fish.
And at that point, something clicks for John. Perhaps he was recalling a previous encounter that Peter (and possibly he himself too!) had had (Luke 5). He recognises that stranger on the beach. It’s Jesus!
And Peter the impetuous gets ready and jumps overboard to swim the 100m to the shore. He’s so excited. But I can’t help but wonder if it’s almost as if he’s got something to prove? And soon enough everyone’s around, eating the breakfast Jesus has already got prepared for them. It’s such an ordinary scene – and yet there’s something so extra-ordinary about it all.
What does Peter think as he sits and eats with Jesus and six of his friends? What’s the conversation like? Is there much conversation?
I wonder if Peter’s mind flashed back to the last meal he ate with Jesus. That one where he spoke so assertively. That meal where Jesus predicted his denial. Perhaps the smell of the charcoal fire takes him back to the charcoal fire he huddled over while swearing to not know Jesus.
Sometimes, we find ourselves being so sure that we have no right being around Jesus. We feel so guilty for what we have done. We remember how we have failed God. How we have denied God. How we have failed to live up to our own promises to be for Jesus. How we have failed to be the men and women that we’ve promised God we would be. We look at ourselves, and we can’t help but think….”Why is Jesus here with me now. Why hasn’t He spoken about what I’ve done. Why isn’t He angry. I wish He would just get on with it and tell me off for it. I know I’m not good enough to be here…. how much longer until Jesus kicks me out?”
Breakfast finishes. Things are cleared away. Everyone’s sitting around, chatting. It’s so… normal.
And then Jesus turns to Peter: “Simon, son of John… do you love me more than these?”
The whole formal name thing. What emotions Peter? None of that is recorded for us by John. But if you were Peter, what would you be feeling?
In a sense, you are Peter. Oh, we’re different. But we’ve failed Jesus in our own way, just like Peter did. Where does Jesus find you today? Wherever it is, He’s already there, wanting to share life with you. To look after you. And to have a talk…
But this isn’t a story of God’s wrath. That was poured out at the cross, and we’re now the other side of the resurrection. This is about the Lord and God of second chances, reaching out to Peter. Just like He still reaches out to us.
“<INSERT YOUR NAME>…. let’s talk…”