Today we conclude our Lenten devotional series with this post-resurrection reflection. Thank you to Kristin Gelinas for today’s post.
Read: John 21:1-14
“After this.” That’s how the passage begins. What a weight is carried in those two words! It had been one crazy weekend. Peter watched his Friend and Lord arrested, beaten, mocked, and carried away to be crucified. And as if this night would not already have been unbearable enough, it was made all the more excruciating by Peter’s own horrific decision. In one moment, he went against everything he had promised. He stood against everything he had stood for. Despite every former good intention, despite every promise he had made (and every promise made to him), despite all that he knew in his heart of hearts to be true, in that moment…in that one moment…he fell. He lied. He turned his back on his Friend. Not once. Not twice. But three times. He had the opportunity to recover himself. But he didn’t. He stared into the coals and though his body was kept warm, his heart had gone cold. Stone cold.
And the rooster crowed. Twice. And the words of Jesus returned to Peter. And the gaze of Jesus settled upon Peter. And the heart of Peter broke into pieces. He went outside and wept bitterly.
I can’t imagine what the following days would have been like for Peter. Except that I can. I know all too well how it feels to disown my Lord. I know how a heart can go from warm to cold to broken in seconds. I know how a decision made in a moment can take a lifetime to unravel. I know how all the promises in the world can add up to nothing when the heart grows hard and the flesh is weak. I have heard the rooster crow. I have felt the gaze of Jesus from across the way, all the while keeping my own eyes fixed on the coals, even as my soul burns within me.
So it had been one crazy weekend. And after this, what would Peter do? How does one pick themself up from the ashes and move forward? When the grief and the shame squeeze out every last ounce of oxygen, how do you muster enough breath for the day?
Peter returned to what he knew. He went fishing. And his friends (nice that he still had some!) went with him. But they caught nothing. (The astute Gospel reader might here begin to wonder if the stage is being set for something miraculous…this scene begins to look all too familiar…see Luke 5:1-11.)
“Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore.” Every time I read this story, I’m grasped by something different. Today I’m amazed at this truth: Jesus stood on the shore. It hearkens back to the first verse of the chapter: “After this, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.” Amazing. He was waiting on the shore for them. I would have given up on this half-hearted crew. I certainly wouldn’t have been eager to see Peter. And the last thing I would have done is prepare a seaside breakfast for them! But Jesus “revealed himself in this way”. This is the Jesus we come to know in the Scriptures.
So we know how the story goes. Jesus recapitulates the miraculous catch of fish, causing the disciples to finally recognize him. Upon this recognition, Peter literally dives off the boat into the lake and swims to Jesus. It’s not the response I’d expect from a guilt-laden, sorrowful, traitor in Peter’s position. But in that moment, he must have encountered such grace, such joy, such renewed hope; that his sorrow and shame were literally swallowed up. And without thought (as Peter was always apt to speak and act without thought), he could not let another moment pass apart from his Lord. And so the two were reunited on the shore.
“Come and have breakfast.” After unloading and counting the fish (all 153 of them!), Jesus then invited them to join him for a meal, which had already been prepared. I can’t seem to get past how incredible these moments are. The grace of Jesus astounds me. Who, having been disowned by his dearest friend, then invites that friend over for breakfast the next morning? Who eagerly looks forward to being reunited with the very person who has most hurt them? After this—yes, after all this—we find Jesus revealing himself in this way:
- as the One who continues to reveal Himself, even after we’ve spurned his revelation.
- as the One who stands on the shore eagerly awaiting our arrival, even after our long night of rebellion.
- as the One who works miracles and creates bounty in the emptiest places of our lives.
- as the One who has gone before us and prepared a table and beckons us to join him.
- as the One who desires to share a meal—yes, even with the very one who has failed him most.
How I needed this story again today . . . after this. After all this. If the Jesus of yesterday is the same Jesus today, then maybe the One who had breakfast that day with Peter, the broken Rock, is also looking out for me. Maybe there’s hope for us too, if only we will hear his voice, let down our nets, let down our pride, jump in the water, head for the shore, and come near the fire and the heart of Jesus once again. Breakfast is ready.