Half-naked fishermen, charcoal fires, and the love of Christ.
JANUARY 31, 2024
Half-naked fishermen, charcoal fires, and the love of Christ. Let’s talk about it, on Key Life.
This is Key Life. We’re here to communicate the freeing truth that God’s not mad at His children. Steve invited our friend Justin Holcomb to teach us all this week. Justin is a priest, seminary professor, and he’s written, co authored, or edited more than 20 books.
Thank you Matthew. My name is Justin Holcomb, and I have the joy of teaching this week. And we are looking at the apostle Peter, who is the impulsive disciple. And we’re looking to see what we can learn from his experience and God’s response to him. And today we’re looking at Jesus’ interaction with Peter after the resurrection, after Peter had failed Jesus and disowned him. And after he heard the message, we talked about yesterday, which is go tell the disciples I’ll meet them in Galilee and especially make sure Peter hears this. And now, it’s the reunion. It’s, this is Peter and Jesus when he finally gets to see his risen Lord and all the disciples went fishing. A lot of them were fishermen. So I guess, you know, their Messiah is dead and he rose again and they’re going to go fish all night and they caught nothing. And it says in verse four of John 21, just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore, yelled to the disciples, and they didn’t know it was him. And Jesus said, children, do you have any fish? And they answered, no. He said to them, cast the net on the right side of the boat and you’ll find some. So, they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because of the quantity of fish. The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter. It’s the Lord. When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, and when they got on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place with fish laid out on it and bread. When they had finished breakfast, I’m wondering what that interaction was like, where, was Jesus looking at Peter, was Peter not looking at him, who knows, but Jesus said to Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? And he said, yes, Lord, I know, you know that I love you. And he said to him, feed my lambs. And then Jesus said to him a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? And he said, yes, Lord, you know that I love you. He said to him, tend my sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? And Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you. And Jesus said to him, feed my sheep. I’m fascinated, by a few things, a lot of things in this passage, but the first one is that Peter dives into the water to get to Jesus as soon as possible. Why in the world is he so eager to see Jesus after his failure? The last we saw Peter, Jesus just predicted that Peter was going to deny him three times. And that part of the story ended with Peter weeping bitterly. And hearing a message of, well, Jesus is risen, he’ll see you in Galilee, and make sure you tell Peter. Peter should have only, if I were in his shoes, feel shame, I think. He promised he wouldn’t fail Jesus, and he did. And even though he was forgiven, I mean, you all know that feeling, when you sin against someone that loves you and you love them, and you’re forgiven, you still kind of remember the shame and condemnation, because people don’t forget what you just did, even though you’re forgiven. But apparently he’s not hiding from Jesus, he’s swimming to him. This is why he’s the patron saint, not only because he fails big, and this is why he’s the patron saint of failures and impulsive people like us, not only because he fails big, but because he responds big. He, he’s, this is, there’s an eagerness to be a recipient of grace. He’s like, you’re making all things new with me? Let’s do this. He’s not cowering in a ball of shame. He’s almost relishing in the promise of Jesus, Go tell the disciples, but especially Peter. It’s because Peter knew that Christ loved him before and after his big failure. In predicting Peter’s failure, Christ said to him.
Peter, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat, but I’ve prayed for you, that your own faith may not fail in you when you’ve turned back strengthen your brothers.
Jesus prayed for him before he failed. And so, Peter jumps in the water because Christ was praying for him even before his failure. And he was confident that Peter was going to turn back. After Peter’s denial, we looked at Mark’s resurrection story. The angel at the tomb said to the women, Go and tell the disciples and Peter that he’s going ahead of you. And again, it’s that and Peter that says so much, those two very important words. It’s not inappropriate for you to hear the gospel and think, yeah, the gospel is for everybody else, that’s some great news. But all of us need to hear the gospel is for all of you and yourself. I mean, put your name in there. If anyone needs to be singled out for special attention at the point of disowning Jesus, it was Peter. He felt horribly unworthy because he just made the huge biggest promise of his life, and he failed miserably at that promise. It is good for us to see Christ’s tenderness and patient love for Peter because he treats us the same way. Christ intercedes for you. He knows your sins. Even the ones you haven’t committed yet, and he’s faithful to you. At your worst, when you feel the most unlovable, the most shameful, the most damaged, defiled, and destroyed, he wants you to know his great love for you. Your sin doesn’t push him away. The sins done against you to make you feel dirty and defiled doesn’t push him away. As a matter of fact, it marks you as one who needs his special attention. He didn’t come for the righteous, but the sinner. The healthy do not need a doctor, the sick do. And so, it’s when you feel broken and ashamed and you’re most vulnerable, that is when he wants to apply his grace so you know more deeply his love for you and your dependence on him. Let’s turn back to Peter. We see his eagerness, but what does Jesus display for Peter when Peter gets there? It’s a charcoal fire. It’s an interesting point to highlight. Why does John mention a weird detail about charcoal fire and Peter being present? That’s because there are only two times when a charcoal fire is mentioned in the New Testament. Here, and early in John’s gospel, when Peter, while warming himself by a charcoal fire, denied Jesus. This charcoal fire provides breakfast for Peter and disciples. Jesus is basically returning to the scene of the crime for Peter. It was a charcoal fire where he was warming himself when a young servant girl said, you’re with Jesus. And he said, absolutely not. He swears an oath and lies that he doesn’t know Jesus again. Right at that point, Jesus was put under oath to tell people who he was and they beat and mocked him. Imagine how Peter felt when he showed up and saw a charcoal fire. He was so eager. I want to, you know, he’s half naked, he throws on his clothes so he can jump in the water and swim the Jesus out of eagerness. Then he gets there, and there’s a charcoal fire. And Jesus speaks to him. I mean, he, this is turning eagerness into anxiety. I mean, I would have gotten there and been like, Really, Jesus? This is what you’re doing? You’re reminding me? This sounds like the opposite of grace, this sounds like condemnation. Are you trying to remind me? Are you rubbing my nose in it? Is that what’s happening? And then Jesus speaks to him. And asks Peter in front of all the other disciples, Do you love me? And he does it three times. Which is the same number of times Peter denied Christ. And after the first two times, he’s asked, Peter is ready with an answer. Yes, Lord, you know I do. But then to his horror, Jesus asks again. You know, it’s almost like the charcoal fire is step one of rubbing his nose in it, and then every single question just feels like almost degradation and condemnation, like, Jesus is getting his pound of flesh out of Peter. That’s what Peter felt like, do you love me, and this, the third one says that his heart was grieved, his heart rendering, his mind is racing, is he accepting me? Does he not hear what I’m saying? Maybe he doesn’t believe me, why should he believe me? I just failed him at his most vulnerable time. Could he possibly be thinking how I failed him back then, right now? Is that what he’s doing? I mean, imagine the conversation in Peter’s head. And I don’t blame Peter for being hurt by the three questions, but these are not shaming questions. They’re opportunities for Peter to state clearly and publicly that he really does love Christ. Oh Lord, you know everything. You know what I’ve done, you know my failures, my weakness, my betrayal. But if you know everything, then you surely know that I love you. And in response to the reaffirmation from Peter, we get not only the brokenness revealed, but also the brokenness repaired. Jesus trusts his sheep to Peter, the failure. Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep. He reinstates him. This whole thing is not to rub his nose in it, but to point to him and say, Peter, I have a calling for you and your failure didn’t do anything to mess that up. There’s a calling that Jesus has for the broken Peter. What has happened by asking him three times is this wonderful affirmation, not condemnation, from Christ saying, I trust you, I will empower you, and I’m willing to use you despite your betrayal of me. The people for whom I’ve died, take care of them. Join me, help, and I will empower you. Jesus is giving all this kindness and grace to one who is so undeserving. And yet Jesus comes to him seeking him out. And that is our hope.
To those who are elect according to the knowledge of God, the Father, and the sanctification of the Spirit for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling his blood, may grace and peace be multiplied to you.
I Peter 1.
And that was Justin Holcomb. He’s one of our voices at Key Life and always brings such clear and incisive teaching. Thank you Justin. And hey, still one more day of this exploration of the life of Peter tomorrow. You don’t want to miss that. Well, I never want to, you know, just assume anything. So, if you didn’t know, we have a website. We’re rather fond of it, KeyLife. org and if I may, I’d like to tell you about two features on said website. First, just below every article is a section called Related Resources. It’s a curated collection of articles and books related to the topic you were just reading about. It’s a fantastic way to dive even deeper into what interests you most. Also, check out the middle of the left hand menu and click on Topics. That will help you find even more relevant articles. Career and Retirement, Assurance of Salvation, Forgiveness. It’s another way to easily find exactly what you’re looking for. And of course, all of our website content is still free, thanks to the generous support of listeners just like you. If you’d like to donate, just call 1-800-KEY-LIFE that’s 1-800-539-5433 if you’d like to send your donation by mail, go to keylife.org/contact to find our mailing addresses or e-mail [email protected] you can charge a gift on your credit card or include a gift in your envelope. And of course, you can now gift safely and securely simply by texting Key Life to 28950. Key Life is a member of ECFA in the States and CCCC in Canada. And we are a listener supported production of Key Life Network.