This story of the final appearance of Jesus to his disciples took place a couple weeks after Easter; the disciples seemed at wit’s end… Jesus has died, they were not really sure about the resurrection (even though they have seen the risen Christ once or twice). But they were still together, bound by their belief in Jesus, but not really sure what to do. They had just walked over 70 miles over mountains and rough terrain, going back to the Sea Of Galilee, a site where they had pleasant memories of Jesus. They were aimlessly wandering around, lost without their leader.
Peter, the impetuous one, was bored and decided to go fishing; and the other disciples joined him. None of them had anything better to do.
After an entire night of fishing, they were NOT catching a thing!
Then a stranger appeared on the distant shore and told them to put their nets on the other side of the boat. . . sort of a logical thing if you know anything about fishing (fish don’t just swim in one part of a lake). And suddenly they caught so many fish that they couldn’t haul the net in by themselves.
Finally, a disciple recognizes the stranger as Jesus. Peter, wanting to be as close to Jesus as possible, jumped in the lake and swam to the shore to be near Jesus.
The disciples hauled their nets in and came ashore to eat a meal with Jesus. This was a re-enactment of the Last Supper, the meal in the locked room after Jesus’ resurrection and the meal on the road to Emmaus.
His name was Simon Peter – this man who leapt in the water to swim to Jesus. We remember him as the disciple who tried to walk on water, but started sinking when the waves and wind blew his faith away. He testified to Jesus as the Son of God, yet denied Him three times in one night. He swore never to forsake his Master, but ran away for fear of his life.
Simon Peter: A man of broken promises. A man of failures.
His name was Simon Peter. We remember him as a great apostle. He boldly and tirelessly proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. He baptized hundreds and thousands of people. He performed miracles by healing the sick and raising the dead. People chased his shadow believing that it could heal them.
Simon Peter: A man of success. A man of Fame.
What made Simon Peter, a man of broken promises, become Simon Peter, a man faithful to his promises?
What turned Peter’s defeat into victory?
What transformed Peter’s failures into fame?
What made Simon Peter, a discouraged fisherman from Galilee, become Simon Peter, an inspired fisher of men for God’s kingdom?
What made Simon Peter become Peter, the ‘rock’ of the church to come?
Consider the similarities between Peter’s first calling to follow Jesus in Matthew and this account in John:
Both occurred on the Sea Of Galilee,
both times Peter couldn’t catch even a minnow,
both times Jesus told him to throw his net into the water and
both times there was a miraculous catch.
Some times when you have fallen, the best thing to do is go back to where it all began. Jesus is going back to offer Peter another beginning, a second chance to make things right.
So after the meal, Jesus turned to Peter. In full view of all the other disciples, Jesus confronted Peter. Peter was full of doubts concerning where he now stood with Jesus. I suspect he feared the day when Jesus might say something like, “Peter, why did you deny me?’ Yet Jesus had too much compassion to twist the knife of guilt in Peter’s heart. Rather, His goal was to remove Peter’s guilt, to perform deep soul-surgery and effectively cut out the ache from Peter’s heart.
In John 21:15, we read:
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Notice the name change here. Jesus didn’t refer to ‘Peter’ as ‘Peter The Rock’, . . . simply as ‘Simon’. The title of ‘Peter The Rock’ that had been given to him by Jesus when Peter acknowledged him as The Messiah, no longer fit. A rock is strong and above all, dependable, and Peter had been anything but dependable.
Jesus asks again:
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15)
More than what? More than the fish?
This is a reference to Peter’s boast in the Upper Room that he would never abandon Jesus. Peter had been boastful and full of bravado, and Jesus was asking:
‘Simon, are you still willing to make that claim?’ And Peter wasn’t. He responded, saying:”Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” (John 21:15)
No comparisons, no boasting on how his commitment was superior to anyone else’s. Peter had learned humility and he realized that maybe he wasn’t as strong as he thought he was.
Often times, we underestimate just how strong our own faith is. We all have had times that we are afraid we won’t be able to handle it when something bad happens. Yet when the time comes we realized that our faith was stronger than we thought. But, at the same time, we often overestimate our strength and our need for others and minimize the need for the strength of God’s Spirit.
Three times Peter had openly denied his Lord, and three times Jesus drew from him the assurance of his love and loyalty. Three times he was restored; and done so in full view of all the others. Now they all knew that ‘The Rock’ was back. Peter The Rock was restored.
Instead of chastising Peter for his failures, Jesus gave him another chance to prove himself. Jesus was not looking at Peter’s past. He was looking at what Peter could do for the future. Jesus was not concerned about Peter’s resume. He was concerned about Peter’s redemption.
Peter’s failures were turned into fame, his defeat into victory, not because of his own initiative, but because of divine intervention.
When was the last time someone, a spouse, a teacher, or a friend, really gave you a chance to correct your failures and shortcomings? When did somebody stand in front of your door, wait for you, prepare a meal for you, was willing to die for you, so that he could give you another chance?
If you cannot remember any time, I want to tell you this morning that Jesus is ready to give you another chance.
You may be experiencing some kind of failures in your life-
failure in your work
failure in your school
failure in your relationship with your family
failure in your dealing with your children
failure in trying to overcome old habits
Whatever your kind of failure may be, no matter how deep you may be in, regardless of how many times you have experienced it, Christ is able to turn those failures into fame, those defeat into victory. Like Peter, restoration to Jesus’ love and God’s Kingdom could be ours today.
There are three points I want to leave you with this morning:
First, no matter how bad your past may have been, Jesus stands not only ready to forgive, but also to restore. He can restore you and use you for His glory. Some of the best preachers I’ve heard have been at one time some of the worst sinners, but God washed them and restored them. Even if you fail again and again, Jesus stands ready to restore you and use you for great things for His kingdom.
Second, if we are going to be restored then we must be honest about our spiritual condition. Some of us here today are not “fine” in our faith. We lack commitment to Jesus and to His Church. So the first thing we need to do is to admit that. Admit that our relationship with Christ is not what it should be and then allow Christ and His church to bring us up to the point where we need to be.
Third, recognize that when we are honest with God, be prepared for God to be honest with you. God is not a fool. And if we come to God saying, “I just don’t feel close to You,” be prepared to hear, “Well, I haven’t heard from you in a while. I’ve been here, where have you been?” God will strike directly at the root of the problem and that is not always an easy thing for us to take.
But it will be worth it!
Delivered at Saint Philip Episcopal Church, Circleville, OH 14 April 2013