…And Then Peter Fished

…And Then Peter Fished

January 15, 2024 0 By Laura

A few months ago, I learned something new about the apostle Peter and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. 

After Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to Mary Magdalene and His disciples before anyone else. I love that Jesus broke the status quo by placing a woman and the young men who were His disciples and who were “uneducated men” above others of prominence by appearing to them first (John 20).

But after Jesus appears to them the first time, several days go by. We don’t know what Jesus is doing during that time or how much interaction He had with His disciples during those days. But in order to fully grasp the significance of the next appearance of Jesus, we have to go back to before Jesus was crucified. 

In John 18, we read the account of Peter’s denial of Jesus. Even though Jesus tells Peter that he will deny His Savior three times, Peter insists that he will stand up for Jesus and do anything for Him, including sacrificing his own life. Yet the very night that Jesus was betrayed, we see Peter saying on three separate accounts that he doesn’t know Jesus. 

Luke 22:61 tells us that after his third denial, Peter heard the rooster crow just like Jesus said, and then “the Lord turned and looked at Peter.” As far as we know, this was Peter’s last interaction with Jesus before His death. I can only imagine the way Jesus looked at Peter. I imagine there was sadness in His eyes, but I imagine so much compassion too. 

The next time Peter sees Jesus is several days later, after the crucifixion and resurrection, when Jesus appears to His disciples. While we can assume Peter was there since he was a leader in the group, there is no specific mention of him so we don’t get a glimpse into what that interaction was like. 

Now fast forward a few days after that first appearance of Jesus to His disciples, and Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, and a few others were together. Very casually, we hear Peter say, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3) and all his friends agree to go with him. We learn that they spent the day on the boat but “caught nothing.” 

Then Jesus comes along and asks (as if He doesn’t already know) if they caught anything. They tell him no, and he tells them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. I imagine they were thinking, “Um… you don’t think we’ve tried that? We’re expert fishermen! We’ve been out here all day. We definitely already threw the net on the right side of the boat–multiple times!” 

So they threw the net out and surprise!–they caught so many fish that they could barely haul them in. In the midst of the struggle with the net, John, who casually calls himself “the one that Jesus loved,” recognizes that it’s Jesus talking to them and tells Peter, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7) Peter puts on his cloak, throws himself into the lake, and swims to the shore. I have to wonder what Peter was feeling in that moment. He seemed awfully excited to see Jesus, considering he just spent all night fishing and then jumped into the lake to swim to see him, though I’m sure he was exhausted. 

And here’s the best part… the part that I keep thinking about.

After everything that happened–the betrayal, Peter’s denial, the crucifixion, and the resurrection–Jesus simply tells them to bring some fish over to the fire and have some breakfast. 

Don’t miss this–Peter promised Jesus that he would stand by him through anything and everything, but then he denied him not once, not twice, but three times. Days went by, and Peter didn’t know what was going to happen or when he would see Jesus again. And then Jesus casually shows up, tells them how to catch a bunch of fish, and invites his friends for a meal. He asks them to have breakfast with them! So simple, so casual, but so powerful. 

Can you imagine someone betraying and denying you, and then you just invite them for a meal? Yeah, me neither. 

But here’s something else that’s crazy. After they finished breakfast, Jesus talked directly to Peter for the first time (that we know of). He asks him three times: Do you love me? Peter answers yes to each question and then Jesus follows each yes with instructions to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, and feed his sheep.

Don’t gloss over this. Peter denied Jesus three times. Then Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter replaced his denials with confirmation of his love. 

AND THEN Jesus gave him instructions on how to serve Him and expand His kingdom. He was telling Peter that he wasn’t finished. His work wasn’t complete. God still had more for Peter to do. 

Here’s another dinger–are you ready? 

Before Jesus called Peter to be His apostle, Peter was a fisherman. Matthew 4:20 tells us that when Jesus called Peter to follow him, Peter immediately dropped his nets and followed Jesus. 

Peter spent years following Jesus but then made a mistake by denying Jesus and turned his back on his new identity as a disciple. And then Peter fished. He just went back to fishing. He went back to his old way of life. He returned to his former lifestyle and career and reverted to old patterns with no regard for the newness that was within him. It’s like he thought that what Jesus said would happen wasn’t really going to happen, so he needed to figure out another solution. 

It breaks my heart for Peter. But also, I totally get it. I can’t imagine the shame and guilt he must have felt after promising to lay his life down for Jesus and then denying that he even knew him. I can’t imagine how overwhelming it was to feel like he failed in his calling as a disciple that he felt the need to return to an old way of life from years prior. And I can imagine the fear that crept in that whispered to Peter that he was no longer worthy of being a disciple. I imagine him hearing the lies that he needs to go back to who he once was because he was no longer made new.

That internal dialogue wasn’t the truth though. Jesus’ words and promises are true even when life is hard. 

After Peter reverted to his old fisherman ways, Jesus invited Peter to breakfast. He didn’t condemn him or judge him or call him out for denying him. Instead, Jesus reminded Peter of who he was. He helped Peter reaffirm his commitment to Jesus and gave him instructions on what to do next. He showed him that the past was the past and all is forgiven, and it was time to look forward to the future and do the next thing assigned to him.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been where Peter was. I’ve felt shame and guilt and uncertainty, and I’ve listened to the fear and the lies telling me that I’m not worthy and I’m not enough. But those are not the truth. God wouldn’t say that to me, so why would I think it’s okay to say those things to myself? 

I want to embrace Jesus’ invitation to be whole in Him and to step into what the Lord has for me, regardless of what I’ve done in the past or what lies are swirling around in my head about who I am. I don’t want to return to my old identity. I want to stand firm in who God made me to be and who He called me to be. I want to believe in the darkness what God promised in the light and hold true to my identity as a child of God.