John Chapter 21 brings us to a place that we often return to after Easter. The crowds have scattered, the headlines have changed, and the weeks have passed, and Peter does what most of us often do: he returns to ordinary life.
Peter seems to always be a clear example of what our human lives are capable of. Peter was first a disciple of John the Baptist, the man who came telling people of the coming King. Luke 5 tells the story of Peter being called to follow Jesus. Peter was a fisherman, and he had been fishing all night when Jesus approached him and told him a different way to do what he spent his life doing. Jesus said, “Peter, put out your nets and catch some fish.” Peter was stunned, and probably a little frustrated. He had been up all night and hadn’t caught a single fish. To his knowledge, the seas were empty. But Peter knew this Jesus. He knew Jesus was extraordinary. His expectations may have been low, but he was willing to obey. And when he obeyed, Jesus was indeed extraordinary. Peter caught a large number of fish; so large their nets were breaking. Peter fell at Jesus’ feet, and Jesus called Peter to something great: from now on, you’ll be fishing for people. You’ll use your skills and gifts for something greater.
So Peter became a disciple of Jesus. The text says Peter left everything and followed Jesus. He was drawn to extraordinary. For nearly 3 years, Peter lived and learned alongside Jesus. He witnessed miracles and he took part in the extraordinary. He listened to Jesus promise something greater time and time again. Jesus challenged what Peter thought he knew. Every time Jesus taught a parable, Peter was listening. Every time Jesus healed someone, Peter was watching.
BUT THINGS CHANGED.
Peter watched extraordinary be unpopular. He watched extraordinary be treated like a criminal. Peter faced persecution and when the crowds associated Peter with Jesus, well, we all know how that ended. Peter turned his back 3 times. He denied that he had anything to do with extraordinary. Peter hid in the crowds while extraordinary was nailed to a cross on a hill.
Back to John 21: Peter, along with the other disciples, have seen Jesus after death. Twice. They have seen the holes in his hands and feet. They have heard his voice and held conversations with him.
THAT SHOULD BE EXTRAORDINARY. And that could be the end of the story. But it wasn’t.
After this, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Get this: Peter and six other disciples were together. Peter said to them “I am going fishing.” They responded, “we will go with you.”
After everything they had encountered, everything they learned and witnessed, they sat together at their old hangout, where Peter makes an audacious statement: “I’m going fishing.”
Doesn’t seem like much, right? But think about it:
Fishing was Peter’s identity. Peter was a fisherman. He fished for a living. It’s how he made his money. It’s where he found his worth and importance.
Peter didn’t know much; he wasn’t a trained theologian. He didn’t grow up in the synagogues and know all of the religious teachings. But he did know fishing. Jesus interrupted that back in the beginning of his ministry, though. He showed Peter that even what he was incredibly gifted at, what he knew the most about, Jesus had control of that. Jesus called him to MORE, and Peter knew that MORE meant extraordinary.
But then Peter doubted. And Peter said stupid stuff. And Peter watched from the crowds as extraordinary was nailed to the cross on a hill. So what does he do? He returns to what he knew. He goes back to his old life. After the crowds dispersed, the headlines changed, the weeks rolled over, Peter went back to ordinary.
They fished all night, and didn’t catch anything. So as morning came, Jesus stood at the shore and yelled out to the disciples, “catch anything?” They answered “no.” He told them to cast the net to the other side of the boat. Sound familiar? They were not able to haul their nets in because of the quantity of fish. Peter, once realizing it was Jesus, “threw himself into the sea”. The disciples did the rest of the work hauling in the fish and they all sat down and had breakfast together.
After breakfast, Jesus gave Peter another instruction: Follow me. Jesus’s call for Peter hadn’t changed. Jesus used Peter’s ordinary to show him his extraordinary.
Have you ever felt like you failed Jesus too much to return to him?
Have you gotten to a point where it seems easier to return to the life you used to live?
Just like Peter, Jesus calls you again. After you doubt, after you fail, after you say stupid stuff, after you back into the crowds, Jesus stands on the shores while you’re back in your routine and back trying to take care of yourself. Jesus will watch from the shore and say, “How’s that going? How’s that working for you? Follow me.”