Yesterday I started a two part look at a few aspects of the life of Peter that really spoke to me in the bible. If you haven’t read part one, you can check it out by CLICKING HERE.
For some great listening while you read today, I suggest Set a Fire by Will Reagan. This song got me so stirred up today and just really spoke to my heart and got me pumped for Jesus. You can listen to it by CLICKING HERE.
As I studied the life of Peter, two boat related things really jumped out at me. I spoke about the first yesterday, as Peter walked on water, and I’m going to talk about the second one today. But before that, I have to touch upon Peter’s denial of Jesus. This strikes me as the saddest thing. As Jesus’ arrest drew near, he told the disciples that they would fall away from him. Peter loved Jesus so deeply, and he speaks up, “I will never fall away,” he tells Jesus. But Jesus knew, and he told Peter that soon Peter would deny Jesus three times.
And sure enough, as Peter skulked around where they had brought Jesus before the council, Peter gets recognized. You’re with Jesus, right? Three times he’s recognized as a follower of Jesus, and three times Peter denies knowing him. My heart breaks when I think about this. Peter told Jesus he’d rather die than deny him, yet when his freedom and likely his own life were on the line, Peter stumbles. “I do not know the man.” I can’t imagine how shattered Peter’s heart was as he did this, as he realized not only that he’d done it but that Jesus knew beforehand he was going to do it. After their years together, after all that Peter had seen Jesus do and all he’d learned from Jesus, he denied him to save his own skin.
Fast forward a few days and come to John 21:1. Jesus has been crucified and killed, but something’s up. The stone that sealed his tomb is gone, and the body of Jesus is nowhere to be found. Peter, meanwhile, is out fishing. They fish all night and catch nothing. The next morning they’re coming back and they see a figure on the shore. The figure asks if they caught anything, and they shout back that they haven’t. The figure suggests trying the net on the right side of the boat, and when they do they catch so many fish that they can’t even haul in the net. It’s about this time that someone figures it out and shouts out “It is the Lord!” Now look what Peter does.
John 21:7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
Peter’s heart had to still be broken over his denial of Jesus just a few days prior. There had to be such shame there, such regret. Have you ever betrayed someone you care about only for them to learn of your betrayal? You want to hide away, never to face them again. But here’s Jesus, resurrected from the grave, and here’s Peter, out in a boat (the bible seems to suggest that they’re around 100 yards from shore). And Peter puts on his outer garment, and throws himself into the sea. He doesn’t tentatively climb over the side, he doesn’t just sail to shore with everyone else. He throws himself into the sea. Even having denied Jesus, even with a broken heart and all that shame over what he’d done, Peter sees Jesus and he doesn’t hesitate. For the second time in his life, he goes over the edge of a boat in pursuit of Jesus.
One thing I want to point out is what Jesus, FRESH FROM THE GRAVE, does next. He’s been wrongfully killed in a horrific fashion despite the fact that he’s a sinless, perfect man. Oh, and he’s just back from the dead after three days. So what does he do? He cooks his followers breakfast. Jesus, the resurrected, undeniable God of all creation, fries up some fish and preps some bread and makes people breakfast. Even then, in that situation, at this point, Jesus shows that he’s not above serving his fellow man, that there’s always reason for doing something kind for others.
Once they finish eating, Peter and Jesus talk. I can’t imagine how Peter felt in this conversation. Face to face with his Lord, just a few days after denying him.
John 21:15-17 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
It breaks my heart to read it. It’s the third one that really gets me. Peter denied Jesus three times, and so three times he gets questioned. I understand it, but in a way I almost wish Jesus had let him off easy. I can’t imagine the agony, the dagger in Peter’s heart when he realizes what Jesus is doing. But as hard as it must’ve been for Peter, think of the love, mercy, and forgiveness in this exchange. Jesus doesn’t rebuke him, he doesn’t cast him out of his inner circle, he doesn’t yell. He tells him to get on with the business of the Kingdom. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. Peter would obey. He went on to become a major part of the new church, preaching and witnessing despite dangerous circumstances. He ends up getting jailed, but gets released by an angel (which is a whole separate, amazing story that I’ll write about someday). Eventually Peter died in Rome due to the persecution under Nero. He was crucified, some say upside down.
I know I fast forwarded through Peter’s life here, so I do encourage you to read up on him throughout the bible. I fell in love with this man and his heart and feel so inspired by him. But for the purpose of these two blog entries, I want to focus on boats. Remember in part one, when I talked about Jesus walking on water. People are scared, some think they’re seeing a ghost. But Peter hears Jesus speak from the water, and he goes over the side. While others cowered in fear, Peter hops out into the choppy seas and walks on water. Fast forward several years. Peter’s denied Jesus, he’s out fishing, but when he sees the resurrected Jesus on the shore, he throws himself into the sea. Everyone else comes in with the boat, but not Peter. He goes over the side for Jesus for a second time in his life.
Of all the things I learned about Peter, these are the two moments that I loved most. I want his heart and his faith. I want to be so full of fervor and faith in Jesus that when I see him or sense him, I’m the first one off the boat. I don’t want to tentatively make plans to move towards Jesus, I don’t want to sit back and watch others pursue him, I want to throw myself into the sea if it means getting closer to Jesus. I serve a living God, Jesus is alive and well in this world. My prayer for my life is that I’ll have the heart of Peter, that I won’t let fear or doubt or anything else hold me back from throwing myself into the sea in pursuit of Jesus. Wherever that takes me, from church to witnessing to people in the world to whatever, I just so deeply cry out for the strength and faith to do this. I serve a big God, one who wants to do big things through my life. But none of that will ever happen if I timidly sit back on the boat. I want to be an action based believer like Peter was. I’m not perfect, but neither was Peter, and God did mighty works through his life.
So for prayers this time around, I’m gonna ask that you pray for all the believers you know. Pray that we can be men and women of action, that we’ll have the faith to be first off the boat in our pursuit of Jesus.