Jesus Restores: Peter’s Restoration (Part 4)
Peter, in his seeming frustration, decides to go fishing, and some of the other disciples go with him.
Adding to his exasperation is the reality that they fish all night and catch nothing.
This story begins with an eery similarity to the calling of Peter in Luke, where Peter tells Jesus, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” (Luke 5:5)
Another dawn with empty nets. Peter is zero for two on last two fishing expeditions.
When morning comes there is someone on the beach that the disciples cannot seem to identify, who asks, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” (John 21:5)
They respond by saying, “no,” of course this further peels back the wound and reminds them that they spent all night running back to an old life and they cannot even succeed at that.
Then the mystery character on the beach says, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” (John 21:6)
And of course they do, and their net overflowed with fish.
As you and I read this, it is obvious what is happening here. The person on the beach is Jesus, and Jesus is reminding Peter and the other disciples of the first time he called them.
From the text it seems John caught this right away and told Peter, “It is the Lord.” (John 21:7)
Peter jumps out of the boat and swims to Jesus.
This leads us to ask, “What is going on here?” “Why does Peter jump out of the boat and swim to Jesus?”
Imagine a time when you experienced God in a fresh new way, or a time when you felt God pulling you in a certain direction. Now imagine that you forgot about that experience or diverted from that calling. And in the midst of your unrest you were brought back to that moment when everything changed, reminded of the time your life was set on a different path.
Jesus is doing nothing short of recreating Peter’s original calling, reminding him of his path.
Peter gets to the shore and we aren’t really told what happens.
The next thing we see is that Jesus addresses all the disciples with these words, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” (John 21:10)
Keep in mind Peter is still broken, wondering if there is still a calling for him, and Jesus still doesn’t directly address him.
Peter drags the net of 153 fish (because why wouldn’t John include the number of fish since he is clearly competitive as seen in the last post) to shore and Jesus again addresses all the disciples and says, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12)
The text continues by reminding us, just in case we weren’t counting, “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21:14)
How many times did Peter deny Jesus?
And this was the setting that greeted the disciples, “When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.” (John 21:9)
Now we all know that if you are going to have fish for breakfast on the beach then you probably need a fire, unless you are going straight up sashimi sushi of course.
Jesus making a fire is normal and we wouldn’t want to read into this detail. The only thing is, we read the Bible in English, but in the Greek (original language) we sometimes discover helpful clues that uncover more details within the story.
For example, if we did a word study of “fire” in the New Testament we would find that the most popular New Testament word for fire was, pü’r [pyr].
This word, and variations of it, occur 83 times in the New Testament.
Then there is this one word for fire that occurs only twice in the New Testament. Both times it occurs in the Gospel of John, and both times Peter is present.
The word is än-thrä-kē-ä’ [anthrakia]. It refers specifically to a charcoal fire.
Remember the detail from the courtyard, “It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a FIRE (not pyr, but instead anthrakia) they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.” (John 18:18)
Then we see that John uses the same word, anthrakia, to describe the fire that Jesus has built.
If your keeping score at home, Jesus just recreated the miraculous calling of Peter, it is Jesus’ third time seeing the disciples, he builds a fire that is only specifically mentioned twice in the entirety of the whole New Testament and so it would seem something important is coming.
After they eat Jesus finally addresses Peter personally and asks him one question.
One question to break the silence between them.
The question that matters most. And of course he asks it three times.
Jesus says, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (John 21:16)
The first two times Peter (or Simon as he was formerly named) responds saying, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (John 21:15-16)
After the third question we are told, “Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’” (John 21:17)
It is as if Jesus had to take Peter back.
Back to the place of his calling.
Then back to the place of his great shame.
Peter was asked three questions once, and he denied Jesus with his answers to each of those three questions.
The scene is recreated, and he is given a second chance, a kind of do over, and he responds to this painful recreation with proclamation instead of preservation.
Remember, Peter is standing in the midst of the other disciples while having this conversation with Jesus, that couldn’t have been easy.
Maybe Jesus wants to heal us from our past, but we want to run and aren’t willing to face it.
Peter stood in the presence of a charcoal fire, after reliving his miraculous calling, on Jesus’ third appearance, and responded to three questions.
He could’ve ran, he could’ve got defensive, but instead he entered fully into the reality of his brokenness and in that dark place Jesus was able to heal.
Facing our past is very different then being loaded down with guilt.
Jesus had every right to look at Peter and say things like, “You said you would die with me, and you deny me. How could you?”
But this is never the posture of Jesus, in fact, statements like that are often the posture of Satan.
Even if that process is painful and humbles us.
The story of Peter doesn’t just end here.
Jesus restores with a purpose.
Each time Peter replied to Jesus’ questions and proclaimed his love for Jesus, Jesus would reply saying, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
In the next post we will see too much wine, a sermon, and 3,000 responses. Stay tuned.