“I’m going fishing,” Peter announces.
This isn’t some hobbyist speaking. It’s not the “think I’ll go and drop a line in the water” of someone that fishes for pleasure. It’s a step backwards, away from what Christ had called him to. An admission of failure. I’m no longer fit to be His disciple. I denied Him, not once, but three times. Even if He’s alive, He can’t possibly still want me.
Might as well go back to fishing. It’s all I know. It’s been an interesting three years, but it’s over.
“We’ll come with you”, say the others. Whether this is their own throwing-in of the towel, or a reluctance to let Peter go off by himself at a time like this, or a simple unwillingness to entirely forsake the camaraderie of those three years is anybody’s guess, but go they do.
They fish all night, but catch nothing. Three years is a long time, but Peter’s a grown man. He’s spent how many countless hours upon that lake, man and boy, learning his trade from his father before becoming a fisherman in his own right. That sort of ingrained skill doesn’t evaporate overnight, not even in three years.
Maybe God is against him. After all, he did deny His Son. At any rate, not one solitary fish.
At the close of the night, someone shouts from the beach.
“Friends, haven’t you caught anything?”
It might trigger a twinge of memory, but you put it out of your mind. That life is over. At any rate, it’s not an unusual question.
“Throw your nets on the other side of the boat,” the stranger calls, after the disciples’ negative response.
Now this is familiar territory. But there’s only one way to test it: Do what the stranger says.
What have they got to lose?
At once, their nets are bursting. They can’t hold all the fish.
There’s no doubt at all, and Peter knows it. Jesus is deliberately taking Him right back to the beginning, when he was an outcast fisherman, rejected by all the rabbis as unfit to be a disciple. One of the many whom the teachers of the Law of the Lord had put aside.
Now as then, Jesus breaks through all that. Others may find Peter too hardheaded, too impetuous, too indisciplined. Peter himself may find himself unfit. None of it matters. There’s only One opinion that counts, and it’s borne by the One standing on the beach.
Leaving the others behind in the boat, in his own impetuous way Peter plunges into the water as soon as he can stagger to shore.
When the others join them, Jesus has the grill all ready, with enough fish already cooking that the haul is superfluous. Breakfast is served: fresh fish a la Son of Man.
Some way through the breakfast, Jesus pulls Peter aside. “Do you love Me?”
“Yes, Lord, I love You,”
“Feed my sheep”.
The question repeats, then repeats again. By the third time, Peter is distinctly uncomfortable.
“Lord, You know all things”. You know how I failed You, how I let You down. You’re proving it right now. But You know that I do love You.
And the threefold declaration comes with a calling, not to be a fisher of men but a shepherd of the flock, and with a promise.
“You know, Peter, that when you were younger, you dressed yourself and went where you wanted. But when you’re old, someone else will dress you, and stretch out your hands, and lead you where you don’t want to go”. Yes, Peter, your death will be like Mine: hands outstretched. And this time, Peter, you won’t fail. You won’t deny Me; you’ll remain faithful, for My Spirit will be in you.
Christ is risen…