“I’m going fishing,” Peter called out as the disciples were gathered. Six others joined him, and the seven men headed out to the water. For the past three years, these men have been following Jesus, but now, they are not going to see him on a regular basis. They may be a little disoriented as they wonder what to do, so they return to what they know: fishing. After all, it was their livelihood prior to Jesus calling them, and they are professional fishermen.
The team of seven spend all night casting nets, but no fish. Spending all night on the water with empty nets was rare, but this was one of those nights. John 21 says, “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.”
Peter discovers Jesus is the one standing on the shore, and he immediately heads ashore. Peter could have taken the time to pull in the nets and ride the boat to shore, but he’s in too big of a hurry. Peter’s need to get to Jesus compels him to jump in the water. Understanding why Peter was in such a hurry requires us to rewind through time.
Sometime earlier, Jesus said Peter would deny knowing him. The pressure would become so intense Peter would deny Jesus not one time, but three times. Peter is hurt by this statement, and he boldly proclaims it would never happen.
Some time later as Jesus is standing trial, the pressure mounts and Peter crumbles. He is asked if he is following Jesus, and Peter says, “No.” This happens three times, then a rooster crows and Jesus’ words hauntingly echo through Peter’s mind.
In this moment, Peter knows he has failed. The very denial Peter boldly proclaimed would never happen took place. Peter never thought he’d make that mistake. He never thought things would get that far out of hand, but they did. Peter could try to make excuses. He could try to explain the failure away, but reality is he fell short. He failed.
Perhaps this sounds familiar. We all fail. We all make mistakes, and there will always be moments in time we would re-do if possible. Mistakes and failures come in all shapes and sizes. Our stories may be different, but we can relate to the guilt Peter must have felt. This is why he was in such a hurry to get to Jesus.
Usually someone in Peter’s situation instinctively tries to avoid the hurt person. No one likes an awkward interaction or facing failures and mistakes from the past. But this isn’t the way Peter responds. The minute he realizes Jesus is on the shore, he jumps in the water and heads inland because he is confident.
This is not a confidence in himself, but a confidence in his Lord Jesus Christ. Peter is so confident in the Lord’s mercy and grace that he runs straight to Jesus. Scripture tells us we can share in Peter’s confidence.
- 1 John 1:9 says, “…if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
- Speaking of the Lord, David writes in Psalm 103, “He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west.”
Peter’s confidence proves right. John 21 goes on to tell us Jesus boldly and gently reinstated Peter. We know Peter went on to be used by the Lord in a mighty way. Peter took his failures and mistakes to Jesus, and the Lord lavished grace upon him.
Because of an empty tomb, you and I can take our mistakes and failures to the Lord confidently knowing he will lavish mercy and grace upon us. We can follow Peter’s lead and go straight to Jesus in these moments. It is by grace we have been saved, and this not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God through Christ Jesus.