Monday, May 5, 2014

GONE FISHING (John Chapter 21)

John 21:3, “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’”

A lot of water passed under the boat between Peter’s call to be a disciple and the events spoken of in this chapter. When Peter first met Jesus, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter (i.e. “Rock;” Cf. John 1:42).  On a subsequent meeting Jesus changed Peter’s occupation.  He was an ordinary fisherman by trade when Jesus called him.  Jesus had just finished speaking to the crowds when He instructed Peter to “put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4).  Peter did so but only after reminding Jesus of the futility of the previous night’s efforts (Luke 5:5).  He and his friends let down their nets.  The catch was so great that the nets began to break.  Other boats came to help.

Peter witnessed that miracle and was amazed.  He saw something of the glory of Jesus.  He was drawn to Him.  But, at the same time, the glory of Jesus revealed truths about himself, and so he said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8.  Jesus didn’t heed Peter’s request.  Jesus did not depart from Peter.  Quite the contrary, He bid Peter to follow (Luke 5:10).  And that’s what Peter did.  He left everything—his boat, his fish, his old life—and followed Him.

Peter’s life as a disciple was full of up’s and down’s.  Jesus had prophetically re-named him “Rock,” but he was anything but “rock-like.”  He was commended when he confessed Jesus to be the Christ, only to be rebuked minutes later (Matthew 16:16-23).  By faith Peter walked on water, but then became fearful and began to sink (Matthew 14:29-31).  His walk with Jesus was like that of us all—full of ups and downs.  But no previous failure rivaled that of his thrice-repeated denial of Jesus.  He had asserted to Jesus his absolute unwavering devotion.  “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” he promised (Matthew 26:33).  But when the time came, Peter denied Him, just as Jesus had warned.  He denied Him, not once, but three times.  He denied Him, not before leaders or soldiers, but before bystanders and servant-girls.  He denied Jesus repeatedly, emphatically, finally.  He had utterly failed in his commitment.  The rooster crowed.  Jesus “turned and looked at Peter” and Peter “went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:60-62).

Then Jesus died and rose again.  Peter saw the tomb empty and went home marveling (Cf. Luke 24:6).  Jesus manifested Himself to Peter and the disciples (John 21:1-2).  Peter loved Jesus still, but was burdened by his previous failure to stand by His Master.   How could he continue on?  What was he to do?  What hope could there be for anyone who had so hopelessly failed?  What to do when things go awry?  Go back to the things you know.  The tendency of sin is to pull us back to our old paths and old ways--to try to find comfort in that which is familiar.  That’s what happened with Peter.  Defeated and discouraged, Peter decided to go fishing.

And so in this chapter we find Peter in a similar state and situation as when he was called.  He had gone fishing.  His fishing trip, as with the one previous, was unsuccessful—“that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3).  He got ‘skunked’ (to use the modern vernacular).  And then Jesus came to them and gave instructions and just like before they caught such a great number of fish that “they were not able to haul it in” (John 21:6).

It was déjà-vu.  The circumstances of Peter’s restoration were as in his call.  Jesus came to him and sought him out and did for Peter what he himself could never do.  Isn’t that the way it is with salvation and restoration?  It would not be salvation or restoration if it was something that we could do.  Both experiences held the same message—“Peter I know that you are a sinner, but I love you and am able and willing to save you”—and Peter was “saved.”  The restoration was by the same means—“Peter I know that you have failed me, but I still love you”—and Peter was “restored.”  Jesus had a conversation with Peter.  His thrice-repeated question, “Do you love me?” was not an interrogation, but a loving invitation to which Peter responded (Cf. John 21:15-19).  On the other side of Peter’s restoration lay a ministry filled with unimagined Spirit-led victories (Cf. Acts chapter 1-10).  With “rock-like” faith and devotion he would faithfully serve in a foundational role in the new-borne church.  Peter had given up on himself, but Jesus never gave up on Peter.  From his first meeting, through his failures, and to the end of his life, Jesus never stopped loving him (Cf. 1 Corinthians 13:7).  Peter went fishing, but in love Jesus sought him out.  How precious is the deep and abiding love of Jesus!

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