Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin,[a] Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.John 21:2-3
It had been a long few days for Peter. In less than a week, he had cut a man’s ear off, let his Rabbi get arrested, lied outright to avoid imprisonment and execution, watched his Rabbi slowly die at the hands of an oppressive government, and now he had born witness to Jesus’ return not once but twice. And you thought you had a rough and strange week.
Peter is confused. He feels like a failure. Nothing really makes sense anymore. So it comes to a point when Peter has simply had enough and he says you know what, “Peace out. I’m going fishing.”
Perhaps, there in the boat, in the familiar rhythm of the water rocking and lapping against the wood, he can clear his head and begin to process what the heck just happened. And even if he can’t do that perhaps he can just catch his breath and forget for a moment about the world and all its problems, maybe even forget about this strange fellow named Jesus. He may not know a lot about being a disciple but he knows how to fish. At least he can’t mess that up.
And so the speculation is that in the face of tremendous pressure Peter has begun to gravitate back to the easier path of being a fisher of only fish and not other men and women. He escapes to the life he knew before he met Christ.
Have you ever done that? Have you ever failed so spectacularly that you were certain you could never return? Such failures shake our confidence and they can leave us looking for a way out.
The problem with escapes though, is that once we have seen a better way escapes no longer work for us. They don’t bring comfort. They only breed discontent. Because we know in our hearts we were called and qualified for a higher purpose.
Scripture records that Peter, the professional fisherman, initially catches nothing. His escape was just another dead end. But here is where the story gets really good. In Peter’s lowest moment, Jesus showed up, called Peter to his side and in the most beautiful and honest exchange offered Peter the grace he so desperately needed. It is this grace that allows Peter to forgive himself. It is this grace that leads Peter back to the higher purpose to which he was called and it is this same grace which still calls to us all these many years later. All we have to do is listen.
Let us pray.
Gracious God, how we give thanks that you are the God of redemption. So many times we are afraid to face the truth of how far we have wandered from you. We would rather continue our path of destruction than stand in your judgement. Yet still you call us back to you. You offer us forgiveness and reconciliation. The beauty of such a thing is almost more than we can bear. Thank you for showing us a better way. Amen.