“I’m going fishing.”
Peter was doing what many of us are tempted to do when we find ourselves on the end of crushing failure and a shattered heart, he was returning to the comfort of the familiar. John chapter 21 tells us his story.
He and his friends loaded up their boat and cast off onto the dark surface of the Sea of Galilee. As the night stretched long, conversation gave way to the rhythm of the net breaking the moonlit surface of the water, only to be drawn back empty time and again.
But so much time to think. Peter must have thought of another fishless night years before when a Rabbi simply spoke the word and filled his nets. And then changed his life.
“Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” Jesus had said. (Luke 5:11)
Peter left everything. He left the trade of his fathers, his boat, his nets. He abandoned all to follow this Rabbi and seek the Kingdom of God, and he saw unspeakable wonders. The lame walked, the blind saw, and the ears of the deaf were opened. He came to believe Jesus was the Messiah, and just a short time before, days really, had confessed it in the shadow of Mnt. Hermon. Jesus ordained him into his rabbinical authority that day.
Then, he saw Jesus transfigured in all His glory and Moses and Elijah came from Heaven to speak with him before Peter’s eyes! Later, he had pledged his allegiance to Jesus, promising to go even to prison and death.
Oh, how Peter believed. Oh, how he loved this Rabbi from Nazareth, but when the moment of truth came, his belief and love weren’t enough to stand in the face of his fear. He crumbled, and denied Christ three times. Matthew 26:75 tells us in that moment, Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.”
The net dipped into the water, and broke the surface again as the sunlight painted the edge of the horizon in gold, pink and red. Empty.
Much like Peter’s broken heart.
Then, a voice was calling from the beach…
“Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some…”
The net broke the surface of the water, calloused fingers gripped the edges pulled upward. It was so heavy, too heavy to lift.
John leaned into Peter’s ear and whispered, “It is the Lord…”
Peter, so broken by failure, still loved much. He couldn’t wait for the boat to make it to shore. John 21:7 tells us he jumped right in the water to make his way to Jesus.
What did Peter expect to find when he met the Savior? Did he fear Jesus’ face would mirror the condemnation in his own heart, or that He would be cold…distant?
Instead, Peter found something incredibly culturally powerful- Jesus had made breakfast. In this culture, a meal was never just a meal, to eat with someone symbolized acceptance…forgiveness. (Martin, Exploring Bible Times, 154) Peter had fallen grievously, but Christ received him humbly, and restored him gently. In the end, Peter did indeed follow him to the death, faithful and true at last.
Christ is ever gentle even in our most grievous failures, offering do-overs and tender grace to shattered hearts. May we receive it in humility, with deepest thanks, allowing His grace to lift us from the ashes and restore us to our purpose. Amen.