The gospels have a number of stories about the appearance of the risen Lord following the crucifixion and Easter. What is interesting to note is that Jesus does more than just show up in these stories. He has something to give to those to whom he appears.
The women on the road ran into the risen Jesus, and he gave them a job. Go tell the disciples. On the road to Emmaus, two discouraged disciples received an encouraging word and a powerful Bible study on what they’d just experienced. In the Upper Room, the Holy Spirit was breathed into the disciples. Later, Thomas experienced the blessing of peace and received a lesson on faith. On the mountain Jesus gave his disciples the Great Commission.
In our text for today, Jesus has another wonderful gift to give to one of the disciples whose name was Peter. It was several days after Easter. The disciples had already experienced the truth of the resurrection. Now they were waiting for him in Galilee as Jesus had instructed. They waited and they waited for an appearance. When an appearance didn’t happen, Peter said, “I am going fishing.” Perhaps he was just trying to kill some time or was just needing to do something. Some of the other disciples went along with him. They fished all night and didn’t catch a thing. They were probably grumbling about their poor luck as they headed back in.
As they got closer to shore, they heard a voice call out, “Children, you haven’t caught any fish, have you?” They replied, “No.” The voice said, “Throw your net out on the other side.” They did, and the net was immediately filled with fish. As they began to pull it in, a light bulb went off in John’s head. Perhaps a flashback to Luke chapter five when Jesus first entered the lives of Peter, James, and John, they miraculously caught a net full of fish with His instruction. John exclaimed, “It’s the Lord!”
Peter got so excited when he heard that news that he jumped into the water and swam ashore the final hundred yards. What a picture it must have been Ð Peter walking on to the shore dripping wet, not saying anything, just staring at Jesus as the boat glided in behind him. Actually, in the gospels up to this point, Peter hasn’t said a word since that fateful night when Christ was arrested.
As they came ashore, they smelled fish frying and bread on a charcoal fire, which Jesus had prepared. Jesus said, “Bring some of your fish over.”
Peter ran to the boat and carried over the large catch of fish all by himself. It was like he was trying to make things right with Jesus. Then Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” What follows is a lovely scene. They quietly sat around the fire and Jesus served them breakfast. They didn’t say much Ð they knew who he was Ð they just stared into the fire. By the way, did you notice that John in his gospel makes a point of referring to the fire as a charcoal fire? It’s as if he is giving the reader a clue. If you go back to John 18:18, you will find another scene with a charcoal fire. At that fire Peter was a disappointment as he denied even knowing Jesus. It’s almost as if there is a stage being set for a necessary confrontation between Peter and Jesus.
Jesus said, “Simon,” (notice he didn’t call him Peter, the Rock), “Simon, do you love me?” Then he asked him the same question two more times and each time Peter answered in the affirmative, Jesus would say to him, “Feed my sheep.” By the third time Peter was feeling hurt. Why three times? Because there was sin in Peter’s life that needed to be put on the table and forgiven by Jesus. Failure and sin needed to be removed and inner healing needed to take place. Jesus, the great Physician provided that to Peter on the seashore that morning. And after he asked Peter three times if he loved him, Jesus said, “Follow me.” He gave him a second chance.
In writing about this story, Rita Snowden writes, “You ask me what forgiveness is: it’s the wonder of being trusted by God in the place I disgraced him.”
I love this story. It’s a grace story, and I need grace. Often times I really blow it when it comes to faithfully following Jesus Christ. Countless are the times when I have failed to put in a word for him when the opportunity was there. Maybe I didn’t see it, maybe I did, but Jesus didn’t get a witness from me. Or times I’ve let him down by not keeping my word and being a person of integrity. How many times have I failed to be a light to cause others to glorify my Father in heaven, yet my behavior did anything but show light for Jesus.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the police officer who pulled over a man in a car and, asking for his license and registration, the driver responded, “What’s wrong, officer? I wasn’t speeding was I?”
“No,” the policeman said. “I saw you waving your fist as you swerved around the lady driving in the left lane. And I further observed your angry red face as you shouted at the driver of that Cadillac you cut off, and how you pounded your steering wheel violently when the traffic came to a stop at the bridge.”
“Is that a crime, officer?”
“No, but when I saw the ÔJesus loves you and so do I’ bumper sticker on your car, I figured the car had to be stolen.”
How often has our behavior left people wondering where we stand with Jesus Christ? How often have we used his name in a way that would make people wonder if we really belong to him? There are times when we truly do let him down. That is why I like this story. It’s a grace story that paints for us the picture of a Savior who forgives.
There is another story I read some time ago and wanted to share with you today. It goes as follows:
On New Year’s Day, 1929, Georgia Tech played UCLA in the Rose Bowl. In that game a young man named George Riegels recovered a fumble for UCLA. Picking up the loose ball, he lost his direction and ran sixty-five yards toward the wrong goal line. One of his teammates, Benny Lom, ran him down and tackled him just before he scored for the opposing team. Several plays later the Bruins had to punt. Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, demoralizing the UCLA team.
The strange play came in the first half. At halftime the UCLA players filed off the field and into the dressing room. As the others sat down on the benches and the floor, Roy Riegels put a blanket around his shoulders, sat down in the corner, and put his face in his hands.
A football coach usually has a great deal to say to his team during halftime. That day Coach Price was quiet. No doubt he was trying to decide what to do with Riegels.
When the timekeeper came in and announced there were three minutes before playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said, “Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second.” The players got up and started out, all but Riegels. He didn’t budge. The coach looked back and called to him. Riegels didn’t move. Coach Price went over to where he sat and said, “Roy, didn’t you hear me? The same team that played the first half will start the second.”
Roy Riegels looked up, his cheeks wet with tears. “Coach, I can’t do it. I’ve ruined you. I’ve ruined the university’s reputation. I’ve ruined myself. I’ve let down the team. I can’t face that crowd out there.”
Coach Price reached out his hand on Riegels’ shoulder and said, “Roy, get up and go on back. The game is only half over.” Riegels finally did get up. He went onto the field, and the fans saw him play hard and play well.
All of us have run a long way in the wrong direction at times. Because of the forgiveness offered in Jesus Christ, however, remember Ð the game is only half over.
Yes, I do blow it. Does that mean I am useless to my Savior? Beyond redemption? No! According to this story, a new start is available. We have a second chance. Jesus does not write me off. As I come before him humbly and honestly and allow him to perform soul surgery on this wounded soul of mine, he says to me, “Get back in the game, Kramer. Nurture the gifts I’ve given you. Cherish the calling I’ve placed on your life, and devote yourself to my cause.”
Yes, dear friends, we still have our moments when we blow it as followers of Jesus Christ. But here is the good news: Jesus Christ, our risen Savior, is the Lord of the second chance.