by Steven Gledhill for FREEdom from MEdom Project
After we have been dirty for awhile we can trust that Jesus will wash us clean. He even forgets about our sinful behavior. We can as much as deny Jesus Christ by the way we live yet can know that when we repent of our sin and return to Jesus that he will completely restore us. And, not only will Christ restore us into right relationship with all that is within and throughout everything that God is, he will both give to us and have expectations of us to be productive in advancing his kingdom.
Remember, that Peter was so devastated that his Lord (authority) and Savior (deliverer) was about to die, that he denied even knowing Jesus when asked specifically about that relationship. We know today that it did not end at the cross for Peter and his countrymen and women. But in the hours and days after Jesus was crucified and buried, the hearts and souls of Peter and so many others had been drenched of all hope. Peter had to account for three years away from his wife and children following a man he believed would ascend to a place reserved for a king. But then he watched Jesus die and Peter saw his dreams die with the king. What was next for the disciples of Jesus?
Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied. Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn. John 21:3-11 (NLT)
Jesus had appeared to the disciples two other times by the time of this event described by John. However, it does not appear that the disciples had an “exclusive” hold on Jesus. Perhaps he spent time with his mother and put their relationship into a more spiritual context. He would appear to hundreds of Jewish disciples over six weeks or so (forty days) before he would ascend to his position of King of kings and Lord of lords.
It also seems as though Peter had another problem. He wanted what he had with Jesus before he denied being linked with him and Jesus was crucified. Their relationship was special. Jesus had told Peter (Peter’s name is translated ‘petros’, meaning ‘the rock’) that it was him who would be central to starting the church—the family of Christ Jesus.
My friend, Pastor Fran Leeman, spoke on this subject to his church and highlighted something I found especially interesting. Peter had denied his Lord three times. His relationship with Jesus was broken for three days and nights. Peter was a broken man who had doubted the authority of God to raise Jesus to do what Jesus said he would do. It must have been difficult for Peter to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with his friends.
Then, while concluding a miserable night of fishing in which they’d caught nothing, they would hear a man yell out from the distant shore, “Hey, you might do better throwing your nets over the other side of your boat!” A familiar tone rang in Peter’s ears. When they began hauling in so many fish they could hardly get them on board, Peter knew it was his time—the moment he had been waiting for. Peter leapt into the sea and swam to shore where Jesus had breakfast waiting for him. Jesus had deliberately sought Peter out the same way he had done so three years previous. Jesus called on Peter three times to declare his love for his Lord and three times issued his challenge to Peter to lead the people of Jesus, which is the church, the family or community of God (John 21:15-17).
Jesus fully restored Peter in a way as to leave no doubt that nothing had changed, except for one thing. Now, Peter and his friends lived in the authority of who they knew was Jesus Christ resurrected. Pastor Leeman spoke of the 153 fish caught that morning. Peter denied Christ three times and his restoration seems to have come in threes. If you multiply each number within the number 153 (one, five, and three) by itself three times—the power of three, it totals 153 (1x1x1=1; 5x5x5=125; 3x3x3=27). I doubt John considered that as he wrote it. Is it merely a coincidence? Perhaps. What do you think?
I cannot escape the unveiled profoundness of the power of three as it relates to the capture of the 153 fish. God is acutely aware of the abilities, talents, and passions that he has imparted to each one of us as he has wonderfully made us. I don’t know that Jesus was asking Peter to give up the thing he was so good at and enjoyed so very much. I believe Jesus needed for Peter to recognize that he is empowered by God; to love the gift giver more than the gift (“these” gifts).
14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.
17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.
Something else that Pastor Fran Leeman taught about the kind of agape love that Jesus intended for Peter to know is that agape love is that kind of transcendent intimacy that declares, “I love you in the sense that I will do anything for you… ANYTHING!” Jesus washed the feet of his friends with agape love. Jesus died for his friends with agape love. I believe that Jesus experienced condemnation for the sin of his friends with agape love.
Considering the Greek words for love in the passage above, Jesus essentially asked Peter, “Do love me sacrificially… willing to do anything for me… go anywhere with me… you know, the way I love you?”
Peter responded, “Lord, you know I am especially fond of you,” like a brother or best friend would express love to a brother or best friend he admired, and whose relationship he treasured.” Pastor Fran suggested that Peter was being honest with Jesus. When he needed Peter’s loyalty and service, Peter fell asleep in the garden, and then a little while later, denied having a relationship with Jesus. Peter, only a few days later, is likely filled with remorse and perhaps shame about his actions, and gave the best response he could under the circumstance. Before denying he knew Jesus, Peter did suggest that he would do anything for his Lord, even die for him. Having failed that expectation that he had for himself, how could Peter respond that he would love Jesus to the extent that he would do anything for him. To Peter, it would be a lie.
Jesus understood that, and the third time asked, “Peter do love me like brothers that have great love for each other and will try harder to do right by and for each other?” Now Peter can honestly respond, “Yes Lord, you know I love you like that.” And then Jesus declares to Peter, “We’ve got work to do; people to reel in and love into the family.” Peter is all for that. Jesus recognizes our limitations and calls for us productively bear fruit in love. He takes us as we are and help us to move beyond what we think we can do.
Jesus sympathizes with our weakness. Because Jesus knew weakness physically, cognitively, and even spiritually as a human being, he knows precisely how we hurt and are wounded and broken. He knows us, intimately. We cannot hide a single thing from him. The thing is, is that he does not force himself in. Sometimes, when we are lost at sea, he calls out to us from the shore, “Cast your nets out into the deep.” Are you listening for his voice? Do you hear him calling out to you? Or, do you reply back to God, “I have been trying and trying and nothing works!” He calls out to you again, “Go deeper! Trust me!” Joel Osteen once said that it is when we are willing to go into the deep until we’re in over our heads that, as we trust God and reach up to him, that he will extend his hand to us. It is then that we will be blessed and prosper in our circumstances as he provides.
Let Jesus who knows you so well—way beyond what you know about yourself—completely restore you, help you and empower you in your circumstances. Seek not the gifts but the gift giver. Trust God to reshape you and your talents and passions into the things he can use through you to advance the purposeful plans he has for you. Open the door to God to reshape the best of all that you are and do from the best that he has for you. Let him, from the bounty of his unlimited resources, impart unto you his best. As for your weaknesses and limitations, trust God to strengthen you. Be encouraged that he can and will should you let him. For where and when you are weak, he is certainly strong.
Let him partner with you in all your relationships. Jesus is your Savior (redeemer) and Lord (authority) whether you believe it or not. Since he has the authority as Lord anyway, why not submit to his authority? Climb out of the boat that is your comfort zone, let Jesus wash your dirty feet clean, and then walk on the water with him. Open the door of your heart to him. Scripture tells us that he knocks at the door of our hearts and wants us to dine with him. From the passage we have observed in John 21, we can be assured that the coals are warm and the meal—God’s provision—has already been prepared and Jesus Christ is waiting to share that meal with us from the bounty of all that he is and has for us.