A good memory when coupled with a godly conscience and a brave heart can repair and restore broken relationships. In John 21:1-25, three images: boats & nets, bread & fish and fire & coal, must have brought memories to Peter of Jesus’ words, works and worth that led him to recommitment to following Christ and be reinstated to service. These can help us examine our own call & commitment to the cost of discipleship, Christian formation and mission
Boats & Nets reminded Peter of that one command, the first, main and now last commission Jesus gives all his disciples – ‘Follow Me’! (Lk.5; Jn.21). It was this fishing gear that put these seven men back ‘in business’. Jesus had called them to leave their equipment and follow him (Mt. 4:19). They had enrolled in Jesus’ mission and went ‘about His Father’s business’. But, discouraged by His death and misled by Peter, they return to do what they know best to do, in their own strength. They fish all night but catch nothing and then see Jesus on shore. He tells them to cast their nets on the other side and they bring in a large haul, only to find Jesus has cooked breakfast already for them!
Bread & Fish certainly brought back to Peter’s mind ‘the feeding of the 5000’ (Jn.6, Mat.16). The multitude, after their needs were miraculously met, left Jesus and went away! Then Jesus turned to these disciples and posed a vital question: ‘Are you also leaving?’ to which Peter confessed: ‘Lord, to whom will we go? You are God’s Anointed and have the words that give Life!’ At this first Christian businessmen’s breakfast, Jesus graciously draws out another confession from Peter. One that will remind and teach all disciples that that if we take care of God’s business, it becomes God’s business to take care of us!
Fire & Coal was for the hot breakfast Jesus prepared for his own. Impulsive Peter swims ashore and sees this charcoal fire (v.9) that surely reminded him of another he sat around and denied his Lord, as predicted. Three cop-outs in one night, but notice Christlikeness: instead of scolding Peter, Jesus knows his heart and immediate needs and so the invite: ‘Come on, eat something; relax and get refreshed’. Then, Jesus gets to the heart of the problem; the problem in the heart, by asking Peter: ‘Do you love me, more than these?’ There may be a play of words (agape versus phileo) to determine the depth of Peter’s commitment and one can only speculate what ‘these’ would have meant.
What is significant is that Jesus’ burning question leads to Peter’s confession, ‘Yes, what else can I say!?’ Jesus graciously reinstates and challenges Peter to demonstrate his love by obedience and be a ‘shepherd’ – feed, lead and breed His sheep. In short, Christian mission is to carefully lead hurting people to experience Jesus grace and forgiveness. Not needlessly worry ‘about John and the future’, but ‘mind our business’ and earnestly ‘follow Jesus’.
Following Jesus, the essence of discipleship, implies sacrifice – letting go of one’s selfish ambitions and letting God fulfill His purposes in and through our lives. Following is also related to fishing – drawing people into Christ’s kingdom. It is precisely what enables fashioning, for when we follow Christ, God is able to shape or conform us to his Son’s image i.e. make us Christlike. Peter wrote exhorting believers to remember to remember that following Jesus is serious business. Let us nourish our love relationship with Jesus not forgetting: how well we follow Jesus, is more important than what we do for Him!