So, when we last left our hero, Peter had just accused some religious officials of being really bad people because they had denied Jesus. As we so astutely pointed out, Peter, too, had done some denying on his own of Jesus, but worse…he actually knew Jesus and who he was.* So, now Peter seems to be lookin’ pretty bad.
In the last post, I mentioned that the only way he could possibly get away with something like is if he had experienced some kind of extreme Grace (or a severe lick to the head or early onset diminsia…but I’m going with grace). Well, take a look back at what had happened to Peter in John 21.
To set the scene, Jesus had already been killed and resurrected and appeared to the disciples. For some reason, Peter had decided to go fishing. The only thing we know is that Peter and Jesus had seen each other, but not sure of any personal conversations. We can bet, though, that Peter is carrying a good bit of guilt…I’m sure I would be. So, they’re fishing, catching nothing, until Jesus shows up and says to throw the net on the other side. They do and bring in a boat-load of fish…literally. When they get on shore, here’s how it went down:
9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
OK, stop. Think for a second about the scene here. What was the first thing they noticed? A charcoal fire. Significance? Well, there is only one other place in Scripture that a charcoal fire is mentioned:
17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself. [John 18:17-18]
Doh! Ever been camping and smell an open fire? Those are great memories for me when I was younger. Now every time I smell wood burning on an open fire, I’m immediately taken back in my mind to those times. What do you think the smell of the charcoal fire would have done for Peter? I wonder if he was immediately taken back in his mind to that night, standing near the guards. Was Jesus purposely rubbing salt into an open wound on Peter or what? May be the “or what.” Look at what happened next.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Look at what Jesus did: At what perhaps would have been Pete’s lowest point since the denial (if our theory about the fire is correct), Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Wait a sec! How many times? And how many times had Peter denied Jesus? Hmmm. Something fishy is going on here!
Three times Peter had denied Jesus. Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. Three times Peter said yes. Three times Jesus said take care of my people. I love the last thing Jesus said to Peter…it was one of the first things He had ever said to him…”Follow me.”
Peter had been completely restored. Somebody reading this needs to hear that again: Peter had been completely restored (as though it had never…even…happened). The past had been utterly wiped away and, because of the actions of Jesus, Peter was now freed from the guilt he had been living with. With the last piece of the puzzle, that being the filling of the Holy Spirit, Peter was ready to carry out The Mission.
Peter experienced extreme Grace. I don’t know about you, but I need that. We carry so much guilt from the past…mistakes we have made…lifestyles we have lived. The charcoal fires tend to flare up every so often and we are taken back to that place of shame. The great news for us is it just might be that Jesus, Himself, has lit the fire so that He can take you to a place of forgiveness. So, breathe it in…there just might be for you extreme Grace.