Have you ever messed up? Especially with God, have you ever done something that almost made you ashamed to call yourself a Christian? I have, wow, lots of times. I can remember times when I was with people who asked me if I was a Christian, and somehow, I acted like I wasn’t. There have been other times when I ignored people when I knew God was calling me to reach out. Man, after those times, you feel so ashamed. You don’t want to pick up your Bible, or pray. And going to church hits you right in the heart.
This is exactly where we find Peter in this chapter. I love John 21 because, in a way, it is every Christian’s story. Peter is an utter failure! He has denied the Lord three times in Jesus greatest hour of need, at the trial before his crucifixion. In fact, one servant girl asked Peter if he knew Jesus, and Peter’s reply was something like, “No way, I don’t know that *$#%^&$#$ Man!” Right after cursing Jesus, Peter looked up and saw Jesus staring right at him. He was crushed, devastated, destroyed. Now, before we get to tough on Peter, let’s be honest. Given the right circumstances, you probably would have done the same thing.
Then, the resurrection happens. At first, Peter has incredible joy. But then reality set in. “How could Jesus forgive me?” he must have been thinking. His response, “I’m going fishing.” Now, going fishing isn’t a big deal, but for Peter, what it represents is a big deal. Remember, Peter was a fisherman, and Jesus called Peter to follow Him and become a fisher of men. When Peter tells the others that he is going fishing, it’s more than a trip on a bass boat. Peter’s dejection has led him to go back to his old life, old relationships, old ways. WOW! So, do you get the picture, this is as low as Peter can go.
Which is exactly why I love John 21. Jesus meets Peter in this spot. And the process of forgiveness is beautiful. First, Jesus reminds Peter and the other disciples that He is still in control. After fishing all night, and catching nothing, Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The results were staggering, 153 fish in one cast. This demonstrated that Jesus was still the one they had grown to trust.
Second, Jesus was confirming His call to Peter and the other disciples. If you remember, it was exactly the same sort of fish catching event that led the disciples to follow Jesus in the first place (Luke 5:1-11). Jesus was reminding Peter that he was called to be a fisher of men, not just a fisherman.
Then, Jesus restores the relationship with Peter through forgiveness. Did you notice that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” three times? At first you may think that Jesus is being cruel, but remember how many times Peter denied Jesus. Jesus is letting Peter know that His grace reaches down to our lowest moments and sets us free!
Yep, you’ll fail, just like Peter. But the cross and the resurrection make all the difference. Forgiveness and renewal are always waiting at the feet of Jesus. So when you do mess up, run to Him, not away. You will find Jesus there, waiting to bring you back, set you on your feet, and get you living for Him again. Remember, with Christ, every day is a new beginning.