One morning, long ago, I was reading Jesus’ story as recounted by John. It was near the end where, after the resurrection, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene to go tell the others, “I go to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.”
My first thought was how strange that must have sounded to Jews who had never thought of God as their Father. He was much to them, but not that—-not a personal relationship like father and son. Not even Abraham, Moses, or King David had that kind of relationship with the Almighty.
Then the narrative continued on to the meeting at the lakeside, a very short time before the resurrected Jesus would be serving a fish breakfast to the disciples. I was impressed with the similarity between this scene and the first time we saw interaction between Jesus and Peter.
In the first meeting, Peter and his crew had fished all night and caught nothing. After they came ashore and Jesus, unfamiliar to Peter at that point, borrowed the boat to use as a makeshift platform, Jesus told him to let give it one more try and go out on the water and down the nets. Reluctantly, Peter did as Jesus said, but let down just one, which broke with the heaviness of the catch.
In this second event, which occurs after the crucifixion, Peter has returned to his former occupation and has again fished all night and caught nothing. As day dawns, a stranger on the shore, calls out, “Throw the net to the other side of the boat and you’ll catch some!”
For some reason—perhaps he hopes the stranger can see something the fishers can’t—Peter does and the net fills up with 153 big fish!
Now they take another look at the stranger.
“It’s the Lord!” John is the first to recognize him, but Peter, ever the impulsive one, jumps out and swims or wades to shore.
What follows next is a flashback to Peter’s denial of Jesus. How beautiful that Jesus gives him the opportunity to make a new memory and new commitment! “Peter, do you love me?” Three times, just like the three denials. And three times, Peter expresses love, and accepts the call: Feed my sheep.
It felt to me like the meeting on the beach was all about Peter, the one who had denied him. All to show him love and grace, and bring him restoration.
When Jesus then prophesies Peter’s end and Peter asks about John’s future, Jesus says, “Follow me.”
No matter what is going on in others’ lives, Peter; follow me.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone, Peter; follow me.
I’ve told you how this will end, Peter; now follow me.
Through the various scenes presented in this reading, I saw yet again that even though my relationship with God is the same as those around me – He is my Father as well as my God – it is unquestionably personal, not generic. Just like he had a path for Peter that was different from that of John, he has a path with my name on it. As I look back over a few decades, I see his presence and provision on that path. He’s been with me, just as he was with Peter and the others that day on the banks of the river.
As he is with you.
There’s a good path with your name on it.
“But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:17-19).