Based on John chapter 21 verses 1 to 23
Story 35 – Peter and Jesus
(PETER) ‘Although I was overjoyed that Jesus’ death on that cross hadn’t been the end of it all, inside I was feeling uncomfortable. Uncomfortable about all those things I’d said the night before He’d been … murdered. How He’d told us all that we’d desert Him and leave Him, and then how I – Peter the brave – Ha! – had told Him I’d never leave Him even in the face of death.’
‘Of course I’d been really embarrassed when He’d said in front of everyone that before the night was through I was going to deny even knowing Him – three times. I just couldn’t believe I’d ever say anything against Him – not after all we’d been through together over these last three years. (P) But the truth was even worse than I could’ve imagined ‘coz, (sniff) when His enemies arrived to arrest Him and take Him away, I ran for my life. Oh yeah, I followed at a distance and managed to get into the courtyard to see what would happen – trying to prove I wasn’t a coward, but then, some of them started to say I was one of Jesus’ disciples. I know I should have admitted it, but I was terrified, and I heard myself lying to save my own skin. ‘Me? I’m not one of His disciples, I don’t even know the man.’ (sniff – deep breath) Three times I said it, each time more emphatic, each time denying that I even knew the One person who really mattered. I even swore an oath that I’d never known Him! And then the cockerel crowed and I remembered what Jesus’d said … that I’d do what I’d just done. So when I heard that sound – the sound of the cockerel crowing – and realised what I’d done, how I’d failed Him when He needed me most, I ran out into the darkness and wept bitter tears – crying as if my heart would break.’
‘And then I had to live with my failure. Jesus was alive, and we were overjoyed that even death couldn’t hold Him, but every time we met, I knew – He knew what I’d said and done.’ (PAUSE)
‘A little later we went back to Galilee. Jesus wasn’t with us then and I wasn’t really sure what to do with my time so, as night began to fall, I told those with me, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and a couple of the others, that I was going out to fish. ‘Coz if there’s one thing I do know – it’s how to fish! Anyway, the others wanted to come too so we set sail and – not t’put too fine a point on it – we had the worst night’s fishing I’ve ever known. It was a complete disaster – nothing – not a thing. Anyway, the dawn arrived and we headed back to land. It was then that we saw someone on the shore. Well, I say we saw him, we actually heard him before we saw him as he called out to us, ‘Hey, friends, have you caught anything?’’
‘‘No!’ we shouted back, not really wanting to talk about how bad our night had been and not knowing it was Jesus speaking to us. Then he called out, ‘Try throwing your net over the right-hand side of the boat, then you’ll catch plenty of fish!’ Oh right – now this stranger’s giving us advice on how to fish. But instead of telling him just what we thought of his idea, we shrugged our shoulders and threw the net over the right-hand side of the boat, like he’d said. (P) Then suddenly, it was nearly pulled out of our hands as it filled with fish! I can remember thinking, ‘What going on?’ And then John spoke, He wasn’t really holding the net too tightly, he was looking at the shore where the stranger was. ‘It’s Him, Peter,’ he said. ‘It’s the Lord!’’
‘Suddenly it all fell into place. This catch was too big to be by chance; it was a miracle! Anyway, when I realised who it was standing on the shore, I forgot about the fish, tied my jacket around me, jumped into the water and swam to shore.’
‘Now, the net was so full of fish, the other disciples dragged it behind the boat and followed me as we were only about 90 meters out at the time. When they got to shore, they tied off the net on the boat and we all went to find Jesus. Seeing us, He beckoned us over and we saw a charcoal fire burning with fish cooking over it and some bread. Jesus squatted by the fire and called over, ‘Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught.’ So I went onto the boat, untied the net and dragged it to shore. The net was full, but even so it hadn’t broken. A little later we counted the fish, including the ones we’d eaten – 153, all of them massive – it was truly a miraculous catch.’
‘After I’d pulled the net ashore, Jesus called out, ‘Come and have some breakfast!’ And so we sat with Him, and He served us fish and bread.’
‘We didn’t say much as we sat with Jesus. I had mixed feelings; there weren’t words to describe how I felt about Jesus being alive – it was so wonderful. But at the same time there were those things I’d said and done on the night they’d arrested Him – how I’d left Him, how I’d run away and lied an … and … failed Him. So I sat in silence, concentrating on my food until we’d finished eating and started walking and I found myself with Jesus.
As we walked side by side, with the other disciples ahead and behind us, Jesus spoke to me, but He didn’t use the name He’d given me all that time ago – He didn’t call me Peter. Instead, He used the name I’d had before I met him – Simon, son of John. It was almost like He was reminding me who I was before, and asking me if I still wanted to be that man.
(PAUSE) ‘Simon, son of John’, He started, ‘do you love me more than they love me?’ As He said this, He indicated the other disciples walking with us.’
‘I guess I deserved that, after all, wasn’t it me who’d told Jesus that if everyone else deserted Him I wouldn’t? But now I realised I had no idea if I loved Him more than they did. But I knew I did love Him, so I said, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’’
‘’Then feed my lambs,’ He said to me. And we carried on walking.’
‘But a few moments later, in the hush that followed, He asked me again, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’’
‘Why did He ask me again? I thought I’d answered that already. So I repeated myself because, even though I had failed Him, I still loved Him. ‘Yes, Lord,’ I said, ‘you know I love you.’
‘’Take care of my sheep,’ Jesus replied looking straight at me.’
‘It was an uncomfortable walk. The others were no doubt listening in, but I kept my eyes down until … until I heard His voice again. ‘Simon, son of John,’ I looked into His eyes, a feeling of pain and sadness overwhelming me, as He asked a third time, ‘Do you love me?’’
‘What could I say? He’d already asked me twice if I loved Him and I’d told Him I did, so I simply answered, ‘Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.’’
‘’Feed my sheep,’ Jesus said. But this time He carried on, ‘When you were young you were able to do what you liked and go where you wanted. But when you’re old, you’ll stretch out your hands, and others will tie you up and take you where you don’t want to go.’ Then He added, ‘Follow me.’’
‘I looked at Jesus, dumbstruck, as I began to understand what He’d just said. Three times I’d denied knowing Jesus in public, and now three times in the presence of my closest friends, His followers, He’d forgiven me. But now, had He really just told me about the day of my death? About being taken to a place I didn’t want to go. (P) I was humbled to think that even after my terrible failing – He had work for me to do – to look after His people! And He knew, that with His strength this time and not mine – I’d remain His even to the day of my death!
‘Shaking my head at the wonder of it all, I caught sight of John following behind us. Jesus had told me about my future, so I asked, ‘Lord, what about John?’’
‘’That’s not your concern,’ He said. ‘If I want Him to remain alive until I return, what’s that to you? What matters is that you follow Me!’ Jesus wasn’t saying that John was going to stay alive until His return, He was just telling me, telling all of us, that what really matters is that WE are following Him, trusting Him and being the people He wants us to be right the way to the end of our lives.’