I have many favorite scripture passages and those from the gospel of John about the disciples encounter with Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias are among them. I believe we can see in these versus how God pursues us, and how we run from his pursuit. I also believe that like Peter we will one day come to a realization of just how important his death and resurrection means to us.
The last time we see the disciples they are in that upper room with Thomas declaring Jesus as Lord and God. That was the second time Jesus appeared to them and the scriptures tell us they believed but did not understand. You would think that after watching him die and then to see him alive would cause them to understand what the said about his death and resurrection. However, the response we see from Peter and other disciples is just the opposite. They are uncertain about what his presence among them truly means for them.
Peter answer to Jesus appearing was to declare “I am going fishing” and invites the others to join him. You would think Jesus appearing to them would have emboldened them to do more than go fishing? In one sense their action gives us a perfect picture of our response to Jesus Christ. We have an encounter with Jesus and then like Peter we simply go back to our old way of life.
How often have we been to some conference, participated in some program like Alpha, had some powerful experience of God and it excites us and causes our hearts to burn within us? Many of us have had a powerful experience of God’s presence and it does excite us for a while. The problem we have is that the excitement does not stay with us and we find ourselves back in our old way of life – we like Peter have gone fishing.
This gospel shows us that God desires more than our having a short term response to his love. It gives us a clear picture of how Jesus is relentless in his pursuit of us and in his ability to use the common things in our life to reveal himself to us over and over again. So this gospel shows us how God will continue his pursuit of us and his desire is that we come to grips with who Jesus was and why he came to earth.
Peter’s response to this his third encounter with the risen Christ we find him unconcerned with decorum as he jumps into the sea and swims one hundred yards to embrace him. This is the response God is seeking from all of us. What is it that holds us back from an exuberant response to the gift of salvation? Are we more concerned with what people will think about us than we are about loving God with our whole heart, mind, strength and soul? Are we more concerned about material gain than we are about living our life according to God’s will? Peter left everything behind to follow Christ only to see Jesus crucified. Now we see his full and total commitment to follow Christ no matter the cost. Peter’s response today should make us question our own response to Jesus; is it limited or is it total. What will it take for us to jump into the embrace of Jesus and follow his plan for our life?
In this story we see the disciples coming to grips with the reality that Jesus will never abandon them but he will never leave them disappointed. They begin to understand how God’s forgiveness was total and complete in Jesus Christ. They begin to understand that being a disciple will put them at odds with the rest of society. Peter had already denied knowing him but Jesus has not abandoned Peter. Nor will Jesus abandon us if we learn the lesson Peter learns by this encounter with Jesus – nothing we have done, can do or desire to do will ever separate us from God’s forgiveness or love.
How many times have we failed to acknowledge we believe in Jesus by remaining silent when we could have spoken up? How many times we have failed in the past does not matter to God; he knew Peter would deny him three times. What does matter to God is what we do the next time God gives us an opportunity to acknowledge him as Lord. If we love God we like Peter must in word and deed let the world know, yes Lord I love you.
We can easily like Peter go back to comfortable things we know and avoid the challenges of being a disciple. The things Jesus reveals to Peter during this third encounter show us how uncomfortable being a follower of Christ will be for us. Instead we would prefer the predictability of a comfortable faith and practice of our faith. Instead Jesus asks us that same question he asks Peter – Do you love me.
We must understand our response demands a total giving of self to proclaiming to the world that Jesus is Lord and Messiah. It is time to strip ourselves of the things that hold us back and out of the comfortable place where we know what is expected of us (that is why Peter went fishing) for that is Christ is calling us to be witnesses of his love and mercy.