The second event that Peter discovered, which would answer his question, “Can I really change” was yet to come. Peter had seen what only a handful of people this side of heaven ever saw, a personal appearance of the resurrected Jesus. Peter was an eyewitness account of more than we can imagine. He saw the sight of the blind restored, lepers healed , 5000 people miraculously fed, people delivered from demons, raised from the dead, Jesus crucified, buried, risen again, and then appearing to the disciples afterward. Peter had seen a lot! And yet, despite all of this, Peter decided to go back to his old way. He had been commissioned to no longer make a living catching fish, but rather to live to catch men. I guess God was taking too long for Peter. Many people feel if they could just see a sign, they could believe better, but Peter is one reason why this theory doesn’t work. Signs don’t create faith, in fact Peter later would write, “Though now you do not see him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.” Why do we feel so compelled to believe that our faith would grow if we could just see something miraculous? Peter heard Jesus say, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” Despite all of this, after Peter had seen all he had, he still lost the mission. Maybe Peter was a lot like us who believe in God, but trust more in money. And so – he went back to his old job, his old way.
Not only did Peter go back to his old business, but amazingly Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John all went with him. When a leader goes backward, others follow. Interesting that Peter’s brother Andrew wasn’t there. So Peter and his crew struck out and fished out all night. It had been a long time since they had gone after it, but they were confident that they could pull in enough fish to make it worth their time. But as the night wore on, so did their patience. The men began bickering, “We’re in the wrong spot, move over there,” and “I saw something jump over there” and “what’s wrong with you, I should have known better than to do it your way.” How quickly they went from exuberant joy having seen Jesus resurrected and alive, to frustration days later. Our decent from the mountaintop is more rapid that we realize. They decided to head back to shore, for they had caught nothing. What they didn’t realize was that a miracle had taken place that night. God had redirected all the fish in the Sea of Galilee away from their nets.
When we are fishing in the wrong waters we come up empty every time. Peter and his followers forgot Jesus’ words, “Seek first the Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you.” They were about to learn that if you seek it second, you will be miserable.
As they approached the shore they noticed a fire on the beach, and a man apparently having a morning barbeque. Peter, exhausted thought, “I wish I had time to cook a breakfast on the beach, must be nice.” And then the man on the shore began calling out, “Sirs, did you catch any fish?” Peter couldn’t respond. Nathaniel yelled back, nothing! The man asked again, “How long were you out?” Nathaniel again responded, “All night.” The man on the shore responded, “Hmm, all night and nothing? Perhaps you should cast the net on the right side of the boat. You will find fish there.” The men looked at one another. Are you serious? We have an arm chair quarterback in a chaise lounge on the beach, with a megaphone; the guy in the stands with all the answers, but to Peter these words ringed familiar. He grabbed the nets and began casting them on the right side of the boat. The men joined in and immediately the nets filled with an abundance of fish. Peter was working and continually looking over his shoulder, back at the man on the beach. Suddenly Peter recognized what was happening. Years ago Peter had this precise experience, fishing all night, coming up empty, and Jesus telling him to cast the nets on the right side of the boat. Peter shouted, “It is the Lord” and with that plunged himself into the sea and headed for shore.
Once there he encountered Jesus who invited them to eat. They ate in silence, staring at the resurrected Jesus. Peter reminisced at his failure and regret. He could barely eat. Jesus broke the silence, and looked intently at Peter. Peter had seen this look many times before. Jesus said, “Simon, do you love me more than these?” Peter was grieved that Jesus had just called him by his old name. He instantly knew what Jesus was referring to, going back to his old way of living. Peter responded, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus said, Feed my sheep.” Jesus asked again, except this time his question was shorter, “Simon, do you love ME?” In fact Jesus asked this question two times. Peter welled up with tears. The memories of his failures, his denial, and even the last night of distraction, came up within him. It is the same question he asks us, especially when we go back, when we get distracted, when we lose hope. Do you love me? DO you love me more than your security, your career, your future, your family, your aspirations?
Do you love ME? Do you know ME? Peter, have you come to understand my heart, I was crucified for you. I have risen for you? I did it for you. Jesus knew that people may have some belief in God, but often can divert to pursuing happiness at any cost. How quickly they got off course, even after all they had seen God do. Then the Lord said to Peter, “feed my sheep”, in other words, forget the past, let it go, drop the regret, and let’s get to the mission, the bigger picture. Time is short. Let’s work while there is time.
Later Peter sat down and wrote these words, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people, but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy… “Therefore to you who believe He is precious.” Something miraculous was not only happening around Peter, it was happening in Peter.