Later, Jesus himself appeared again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. This is how it happened. – John 21:1 (CEB)
This week I was reading John 21 with a friend. This has always been one of my favorite passages. Coupled with Luke 5:1-11, it completes the call Jesus makes on Peter’s life. In Luke, Peter sees Jesus and says, “Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8, NIV) But yet Jesus invites him to join him in his ministry. Jesus offers greater purpose to Peter’s life. And when Jesus says, “Follow me,” Peter does.
In John 21, Peter is painfully aware that he is indeed a sinful man – having denied the One for whom he said he would die. But Peter has learned something about sin that he didn’t know when he was first in the boat with Jesus: sin is personal. Sin isn’t a list of things you should or shouldn’t do. Sin is the intimate betrayal of the One who can’t stop loving you anyway.
When Jesus visited the disciples – twice in John 20 – we have no mention of Peter. Peter was simply one of the crowd. I wonder whether he stood in the back wishing he wasn’t so tall. I wonder if Peter questioned whether Jesus truly included him in all that joy and peace and promise of forgiveness. Peter had confessed earlier, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68, NIV) Maybe Peter was just glad to still be part of the group. After all, where could he go?
I guess he could go fishing.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he wrapped his coat around himself (for he was naked) and jumped into the water. – John 21:7 (CEB)
And so Peter, who told Jesus to go away from him because of his sinfulness, now leaps out of a boat in order to bring his sinfulness to Jesus. Peter doesn’t just understand sin – he also understands forgiveness. We have no record of any words between Jesus and Peter before the other disciples brought the net full of fish to the shore. But Jesus does offer another invitation.
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” – John 21:12 (CEB)
I think this simple meal in the early hours of the morning was as significant to Peter as the Last Supper. Only days passed between these two meals but it was really a lifetime. Jesus passed from life to death to life everlasting. And Peter does, too. Peter, intimately familiar with the pain of sin, now also becomes intimately familiar with the reality of new life.
Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. – John 21:13 (CEB)
Like the bread and cup we share in communion, this shoreline breakfast was a simple meal: and a simple act of hospitality. As members of the Body of Christ, don’t we have the opportunity to do the same?
Sitting by the Sea of Galilee…