Jesus is not with them. Not really knowing what to do, they go back to what they used to do before they met Jesus. The last few years they had been with him every day. But recently things had changed. When he was arrested, crucified and placed in a tomb, they had not been with him for 3 days. He had risen, and he had showed himself on two previous occasions. But things weren’t the same for them.
Simon Peter says to them, “I’m going fishing.” The others who are with him decide to go too.
When morning came, Jesus stood on the shore. The disciples didn’t know it was him. And he asks them if they have any meat to eat. They reply “No”, so he tells them to throw the net on the right side of the boat. The catch is huge. They are unable to draw the net into the boat.
One of the disciples says to Peter, “It’s the Lord.” Peter puts on his coat and jumps in to the water and swims to meet Jesus. There is something in Peter that knows, “I need to be with Jesus.”
There is food to eat. Jesus himself has provided. “Come and eat.” He serves them again, he feeds them bread and fish. They remember the five loaves and two fish, and the seven loaves and few fish that he fed the multitudes with. He fed the crowds. Now he is feeding them.
When they had finished eating, Jesus says to Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” We know that Peter answers by saying, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
3 times in total Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?” Jesus knows that Peter denied him. He told Peter that would happen. Peter doesn’t need to be told that Jesus knows. He did exactly what Jesus said he would do, despite his insistence that he would never deny Jesus. Perhaps the awkwardness for Peter is that both he and Jesus know. How would we feel in that situation? Someone who had passionately declared who Jesus is, who had dedicated his life to following Jesus, suddenly through fear denies Jesus 3 times. There would likely be shame, disappointment and anger.
And yet Jesus comes to Peter. He doesn’t say “Peter, you denied me 3 times. You let me down, but I forgive you.” Jesus simply resets Peter with Love. Jesus comes to Peter looking for himself in Peter. He is looking for Love in him. And he wants to reveal to Peter that, indeed, Love abides in him. He just doesn’t know it at this point in time. He is about to reset Peter, to take him back to start all over again, and to reveal to him that what really matters is Love.
3 times “Do you love me?” One for each denial. By the third time Peter is agitated.
Perhaps Peter is really saying, “You know that I love you. You’ve asked me twice already. You know I do. But I denied you 3 times. I don’t deserve you, I don’t deserve this Love. I’ve ruined everything, and you told me I would. I said I would never deny you, and I did it anyway. I don’t deserve anything.”
How many of us have felt like this? I know I have. Every failure, every ‘sin’ is a denial of Jesus. Our acceptance of this is important. Surely we’ve all been there? Perhaps we’ve felt the anger, shame, and disappointment that Peter might have felt. Maybe we’ve felt as though we deserve to be punished, that we don’t deserve to be loved by Jesus. We may feel that the apparent separation is punishment enough, but perhaps we feel that we don’t deserve for that to end right now. Give it time, we will make it right, and then we will be ready to receive this Love again.
And then morning comes and Jesus is stood at the shore while we are out at sea. We want to be with him, but we don’t want to say anything about what happened. He knows anyway, maybe he’ll just let it go? We swim back to him, we will get there in the end.
And then Jesus disarms us. “Do you love me?” That’s not what we expect. That’s not punishment. That’s Love. Love is looking for himself in us. That’s the reset button. As Jesus reset Peter with Love, so he resets us with Love too. He invites us to come, eat, and then simply asks us, “Do you love me?”
Jesus doesn’t ignore what happened with Peter. He doesn’t pretend that it doesn’t matter. And neither does Peter. Jesus just has a way of dealing with it that doesn’t make sense to us at the time. And yet he is resetting us. His Father holds the plumb line, Jesus himself, and Jesus draws us back to himself, making him central. The way of Love at work.
Jesus revealing of the Father was of a loving Father. This reminds me of something I read by W Mauleverer. It’s something I was talking about yesterday with others.
“I thank God from the bottom of my heart that His Love is not changed towards me because of my misdemeanours. I hurt myself with the evil that I do; alas I hurt other people with the evil that I do; alas more still, I hurt my Heavenly Father with the evil that I do; but, as Julian of Norwich so beautifully puts it, “In all this the sweet eye of pity and love is never lifted off us, nor the working of mercy ceaseth.”
There is a sturdy reliability about the Love of God. It does not vary with man’s deeds or misdeeds. I know that in the Communion Service we refer to our sins as “provoking most justly Thy wrath and indignation against us,” but I also know that it does nothing of the sort! It would be “most just” in the sense of being “deserving” and “understandable” if God so dealt with us after our sins, but He doesn’t. It is I who condemn myself; it is others, perhaps, who condemn me and throw the first stone; but it is my Heavenly Father who says, “Neither do I condemn thee. Go and sin no more.”
Maybe we are conscious of so many times we have denied Jesus. Perhaps we haven’t heard Jesus ask us the question he asked Peter. Maybe that’s where we are today, all out at sea. But today, morning has come, and Jesus stands on the shore. Let him draw us back to himself, and hear his words; “Do you love me?”
Eat the Bread, drink the Living Water. May Love reset us from within.