The sun was beginning to rise above the hills on the eastern shore. The sky was lighter even though the scattered low hanging clouds barely allowed the glow of dawn to break over the water. My partners and I pulled in the fishing net and found it empty again.
Much like my soul.
A few days previous, Jesus had appeared to me and the other disciples; miraculously in the room even though the doors were bolted. I joined my brothers as we touched his wounds and cried with joy. The unbelievable had really happened. He spoke of peace and the Holy Spirit and then blew gently on us. The impact of his breath sent shivers down my spine. I tried to open my heart to receive all he was giving to me, yet when he began to speak of forgiveness, I immediately fortified the walls in my broken heart.
I was not worthy of forgiveness, or peace. I had denied him three times – just as he had said I would. I had failed my best friend, my teacher, my Lord. My heart was heavy and my soul hollow.
But didn’t he also offer a spark of hope Passover night when he spoke of my approaching betrayal?
Remember this: after you have turned back to me and have been restored, make it your life mission to strengthen the faith of your brothers.
How could he see past that moment around the fire when that persistent little girl pushed me off the edge of my fear and doubts? The words had rolled off my tongue faster than I could stop them.
“What are you talking about? I don’t know him!”
But I did know him!
I just didn’t know myself and within a couple of hours I finished digging my grave of denial. As I flung the dirt of the last words, disowning my Lord, I heard the rooster crowing. At that moment, Jesus, who was being led through the courtyard right past me, turned around and looked straight into my eyes.
He knew what I had done.
I ran, not only that night, but every day since; trying to escape my disgust with myself.
Even retreating to the lake, the boat, and the nets; a place that used to bring me joy and satisfaction, still did not bring the comfort I needed for my troubled soul.
As I was ready to call it quits on our fishing expedition, a man hollered from the shore asking if we had caught anything. I couldn’t make out the details of his face, but he had built a fire and probably wanted to buy a fish for breakfast.
Luke shouted back that we had been fishing all night and were completely skunked.
“Throw your net over to the starboard side, and you’ll catch some!”
I don’t know what this man knew that we didn’t, but my brothers followed his instructions anyway. Within minutes we felt the drag against the boat and as we pulled up the net over a hundred fish surfaced, trying to wiggle free from their captivity.
We looked at each other and then back to the man on the shore. A memory from three years prior flashed into our minds simultaneously. “It’s Jesus!”, John cried out. I whipped off my coat and dove into the water; swimming for shore as quickly as I could. The other disciples were not far behind me, dragging the catch of fish behind the boat. When they arrived, I grabbed a few of the largest tilapia and added them to our feast of roasted fish and bread. It was good to be together again, but I would not be content until Jesus and I made things right between us.
He caught my eye and we began to walk down the beach. My heart was heavy, and I felt so unworthy, so when he asked me three consecutive times if I loved him, sobs broke out from the deepest part of my soul.
The reminders of failure were surrounding me. It had been after a miraculous catch of fish when Jesus first called me to follow him; and I had failed. The damp clothes I was wearing reeked of smoke; reminding me again of the campfire where I denied him. And now he asks me three times if I love him.
“Lord you know everything! You know that I love you”, I cried out as I fell to my knees in the sand. I poured out my repentant heart at his feet.
He knelt and looked directly into my eyes – again. I saw nothing but grace. Yes, he did know everything and still loved me despite my failures.
“Peter, follow me.”
It was my new beginning, my second chance, and my reestablished call to ministry. I would strengthen my brothers. I would preach the story of the cross. I would take care of the believers.
I looked up as the sun broke through the clouds and glistened across the lake. I felt as new as the morning; my life was restored.
Narrative from Luke 5:1-22, 22:31-62, John 21:1-19