Reading through John 21 this morning, I was struck by how weird it must have been--incredibly confusing and depressing--for the disciples in the week after Easter. Here they are, having invested three years of their lives into following a man who just died, and for what? What did it all accomplish? Truly, at this point, I don't think they know. They are confused, discouraged, unsure--like a deflated balloon. They've seen the risen Jesus on more than one occasion and He's given them several signs and proofs. They're excited He's alive, but they aren't sure what to do next. They are at least a week past Resurrection Sunday, and yet, instead of seeking the Lord's commission, they are back in the boat.
They return to the one thing they are sure of: they put their confidence in their occupation. We don't know how to follow Jesus any more or apply what He taught us, but we do know how to fish.
However, the night proved to be anything but successful. All night they fish and by sunrise, nothing: no success. Their fishing wouldn't restore their confidence. This disappointment was a good thing in disguise. When we can't find our security in what used to hold us, we turn to a more reliable anchor.
A man from the shore asks how their night has been. Anything?
No fish. Nothing.
"Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some," Jesus replies. At this point, they don't recognize the man or the voice. Seem strange? I thought so too. Perhaps it was too far to see? Perhaps their embarrassment kept them from looking.
Even so they don't argue or defend themselves or say, "that's ridiculous!" though I would imagine some thought it. They follow the man's command and the net overflows.
And now, the miraculous has illuminated their vision: "It's the Lord!" John exclaims, and Peter, recognizing a similar situation (Luke 5), doesn't hesitate. For Jesus has repeated in near mirror image how he called Peter in the first place. The illustration isn't lost on Simon. He jumps in the water to swim to the shoreline. He needs to be with the One who called Him to the deep, to believe, to throw his net out just one more time. He's going to see if Jesus will accept him just one more time.
Jesus does forgive Simon Peter and commissions him to carry out the work of loving and teaching and disciplining.
I can hear Jesus' heart through these life lessons: do you see what you accomplish when you do things out of your own strength? Do you see what is restored when you follow Me? With Me, Peter, you can do incredible things!
Peter knew that if he was going to catch anyone for the Kingdom of God, he was going to need to rely on loving the Lord first and foremost: not relying on his previous crutches of confidence (fishing, his personality, his aggression, his fear of public opinion).
Jesus equips Peter. Right after their very personal encounter, we jump into the book of Acts and see how the Holy Spirit poured power and confidence over Peter (despite his failings, his personality defects, his guilt--after all, he denied Christ...three times!) and Peter preached with bold conviction. And we're not talking a couple dozen people (though that would be reason to celebrate); we're looking at thousands added...in one day.
And I hear Jesus' encouraging words: "You see, Peter? You see what you can do when you follow me in my power?"