Note: The following event took place soon after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, with flashbacks of three years earlier.
“Later, by the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples.
This is what happened:
Simon Peter, Thomas and Nathanael, Zebedee’s sons,
and two other disciples of Jesus were together.
Simon Peter said to the others,
‘I’m going fishing.’”
Like any good fisherman, when life gets tough, ya’ jump in the old fishing boat. It had been an extraordinary, emotional week for Peter and his buddies. Betrayal, crucifixion, fear, hiding, burial, earthquake, resurrection, forgiveness, . . . Peter had even lopped the ear off of a Roman Guard, which Jesus immediately re-attached.
He just needed to go fishing.
The Sea of Galilee borders many regions. The shoreline that bordered the big, non-Jewish (Roman/Gentile side) city of Tiberias was called “Sea of Tiberias”, but is still the same body of water known as the Sea of Galilee. Did Peter head to that Gentile shoreline because it was less associated with the region where he had spent so much time with Jesus? Too many memories? Was the Jewish side too likely to pose a run-in with people who would recognize him as being one of Jesus’ inner circle? Jesus’ crucifixion was still fresh in people’s minds.
We can only imagine the emotional and mental trauma that Jesus’ closest circle of friends had just lived through. Peter, especially. He was a “feel-er”….many times letting his heart overrule his head. Turning to what was most comfortable for him…where he felt most competent – fishing on his lake – made total sense.
So, Jesus met him there.
- He was waiting with a campfire and cooking a fresh fish breakfast including bread on the side;
- He had given Peter a great tip of where the fish were biting (netted 153!);
- He invited the group of guys to share some of their fresh catch with His breakfast spread.
True to form, as soon as Peter realized Who was talking to them from the shoreline, he threw on his coat and jumped into the water, leaving the details of the overflowing boat and fresh fish to his friends. His priority was getting to Jesus.
Was Peter remembering His first meeting with Jesus…was it only three years ago?! It had been a similar long night of fishing with not one fish to show for it. There had been a huge crowd of people on the shoreline following this Man…a Teacher…and since Peter’s boat was empty, the Teacher got in, without even asking! He just shlepped right in and told Peter to back the boat up a bit. Then He started talking. And the whole crowd was listening! Peter had no choice but to listen…he was caught in his own boat. And besides, everyone was looking at them. Peter had ended up walking away from it all…the fishing, his boat, life as he’d known it. Jesus had drawn Peter in, even telling him that He would make him a “fisher of men.” Peter was “hooked.” For life.
When the rest of the guys had finished securing the boat and the 153 fish (only a true fisherman would count them out, and writeabout it), they joined Jesus and Peter at the campfire. Jesus took the bread . . . and gave it to them. Then the fish. Was Peter remembering the last meal they had shared…in that borrowed upper room? Jesus had taken the Seder bread, broke it, and gave it to them to eat. But that night He had added something strange: “This is MY Body, broken for you. Take. Eat. …Remember.”
Only a few hours later Jesus had been “tried”….tortured…. while Peter stayed in the shadows. He had denied being “with” Jesus three times, saying “No”…. he didn’t know Him. As the words of his third denial still hung in the night air, the sound of a rooster’s crow broke into the darkness, just as Jesus had said.
In Jesus’ simple act of serving breakfast to His fishing friends, He was communicating directly to their hearts:
- “Peace” was between His Heart and theirs;
- “Forgiveness” for any of the hurtful failures weighing on them for all Jesus had gone through
- Restored relationship between them.
As far as we know from the records of this story, they had not even verbalized their regrets. But Jesus was looking at their hearts.
I remember the sick feeling in my stomach as a little girl, any time I had done something wrong. I wanted to hide. I wanted to fix it. I let shame be a cloud hovering over me, not knowing how to get out from under it. But through the years, I have come to experience the continued kindness of God’s forgiveness, as lived out in all the stories of Jesus. I don’t head to a fishing boat….but it might be to my garden, or a drive, or shopping, art, or TV. And though it should come as no surprise, Jesus shows up, acting as if nothing has happened. His undeserved kindness, His goodness, interrupts and draws me back into His Presence.
May my heart “jump in” to Jesus’ Presence in my life, no matter why I have jumped into my “boat.”
TO BE CONTINUED….