Peter and his story are great gifts to us as believers. It is very easy to classify this man as the Super Apostle, the leader of the Twelve, the one who reportedly stands at the gates of Heaven. He was often bold and courageous. He was on hand for the most significant moments of Jesus’ public ministry on earth – the raising of Jairus’ daughter and the Transfiguration on the Mount among them.
However, the more we read about Peter in the pages of the Bible, the more we discover that he was very much a human being, and flawed one at that. Yes, he stepped out of the boat to walk on water. Great faith was his for that action. But then came the wind and the waves. He lost sight of Christ and started to sink.
This wouldn’t be the last time that Peter wilted under the heat of troubling circumstances. The best known example of this came after Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane. He rose to fight as Christ was taken into custody, swinging a sword and lopping off the ear of a soldier. Just hours later, the challenge of a Temple maid prompted Peter to vehement denial of any knowledge of his Lord and Savior.
Soon, Jesus would be on the Cross. Peter’s failure hit him hard when Jesus looked upon His disciple as He was led to Pilate. Peter wept over his weakness. He mourned the death of his spiritual courage.
Back to the Boat
I think, however, the more significant challenge to Peter’s faith came after the Resurrection. He saw the empty tomb. He also touched and handled the living Christ. He heard his Lord proclaim peace, and he had the Spirit breathed upon him.
And, yet, just days after all of these experiences, Peter decided to get back into his boat – his old fishing boat. To make matters worse, his decision affected a number of the other Apostles who determined to join him in his return to life as a waterman.
From the account written in John 21, it seems that these guys took up nets that they had “straightway left behind” in Matthew 4 when Jesus promised to make them fishers of men (see Matthew 4:19-20). Just a few days before, they’d watched Jesus as He insisted that Thomas reach his hand into the Lord’s wounds. Now they had put themselves out to sea.
One Lost Night
The lure of the past proved strong for Peter and for them. For a night, anyway, they forsook their Father’s business for their old occupation. There, on the water, these disciples learned all over again about the finicky nature of the waves and the fish. They caught nothing. It was an evening of vanity; their nets and boats were empty.
As the sun began to rise, the boys in the boat heard the Voice from the shore. “Children, do you have any food?” came the question. I think those words rang out across the waves the way “Adam, where are you?” must have rang out through the Garden in Genesis 3. Adam had retreated into the trees that he had been tasked to dress and keep; the disciples had returned to the sea upon which they had worked and lived.Jesus directed them to the right side of the boat, telling them where to cast their empty nets. In a moment, they were wrestling with a catch of 153 fish. Jesus exposed their trouble, but He did not leave them there. Click To Tweet
“No,” they answered. And then Jesus directed them to the right side of the boat, telling them where to cast their empty nets. In a moment, they were wrestling with a catch of 153 fish. Jesus exposed their trouble, but He did not leave them there.
It finally dawned on John that the Voice from the shore belonged to Jesus. There, on the beach, Peter and the disciples found breakfast waiting for them. How remarkable is this? The Lord and Master, who once had washed their feet, now prepared a meal for them.
A Confirmation of Purpose
After everyone had eaten, Jesus took Peter aside and directed His Apostle back to his true purpose: that is, feeding the lambs and sheep of God. Christ was forgiving and firm. He told Peter that the point of life was to follow Him.
I think we’ve all had moments like Peter had. We slip back into old ways and wrong habits. But God is there. He will give us a word for this season, if we will listen for Him. He will feed us with something specially prepared by Him for us. He will draw us back to Himself and encourage us through His Word and Spirit.
Hallelujah, what a Savior.