December 19, 2021
Scripture: When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. John 21: 9-11 ESV
Observation: In this epilogue to John’s Gospel, the beloved disciple of Christ tells about a miraculous catch, a fish fry, and a recommissioning. Seven of Jesus’ remaining eleven disciples grew weary of waiting for Jesus and decided to keep themselves busy doing what they knew best: fishing on the Sea of Galilee. But just as when they first met their Rabbi, their efforts were fruitless until the Son of God commanded them to cast their net. This time, though, their large haul would not tear the nets. And when they arrived on shore, their Master, who had prepared a breakfast of fish and loaves, instructed them to bring some of the fish they had caught. Lastly, after they reconnected over a meal, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. With each affirmation, the Lord commanded Peter to care for his sheep.
Takeaway: This beautiful restoration story inherently addresses Peter’s most shameful failures and reframes them in the healing light of his Savior. First, the miraculous catch free of net tears signaled to Peter that when he obeyed his Master, none of those whom the Lord would draw to himself through Peter casting the Gospel would be lost. Secondly, with its unique sound, scent, and flame, the charcoal fire would spark Peter’s memory of when he stood over another charcoal fire to warm himself when he denied Christ three times. (Indeed, the Greek word for this specific type of fire appears only twice in the New Testament: here and in John 18:18). But this time, Peter would not deny that he is a follower of the Son of God. Lastly, the bread would remind Peter of his last supper with his Lord on the eve of the Crucifixion and how he longed to be in close communion with his beloved Savior.
Having reconnected Peter’s shameful memories utilizing sensory recall, Jesus reframed his associated feeling of failure with a vote of confidence: You are still the one I want to lead my church. Never forget that I love you and that you love me—and I will be with you always to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). And our Lord speaks similar soul-healing words to us today. If we submit to the work of his Holy Spirit, he will heal our painful memories and reframe them with a refreshed sense of his love for us and a renewed vision for his calling on our lives. But we have to trust the process. It takes humility, courage, and patience—and may require the aid of others, such as a pastor and counselor. But it is worth it!
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son who loves us and cares deeply for our wellbeing. Would you please help us remember that he has promised us abundant life (John 10:10) free of shame? And would you grant us humility, courage, and patience to cooperate with your Holy Spirit when he exposes those hurtful memories that we have repressed and reframes them in the positive light of you and your Son’s love for us? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling