Maybe you’ve gotten to the end of 2013 and wonder, what did I do this year?
You look back with a sadness of relationships that are broken, people who no longer speak to each other. You think back to those who you were close you last December who are no longer there.
It might be a career that has fallen off the tracks. A dream you had in school last year that doesn’t seem possible anymore.
Maybe you were given horrible health news this year. We as a church have been walking with families who were told this year, “you have cancer and it seems hopeless.”
Sometimes, life feels like a puzzle that you are putting together and you get to the end and discover that there are pieces missing.
Yet, in one my favorite chapters in the Bible, John 21, we find that Jesus puts the pieces of our life back together.
In this scene, Jesus is on the bank of the Sea of Galilee, where Peter and his friends are doing what they love, fishing. This is what Peter does to relax, unwind. It is what he does for a living.
Peter is still reeling from the pain of denying Jesus 3 times. Watching him die and wondering what lay ahead because of the resurrection. So he fishes. It seems like the natural thing to do. When we are depressed, lost, sad or down in the dumps, we do what we know. So Peter goes fishing.
When they see Jesus, John tells us that Peter jumps in the water and swims to him. The details of John 21 are fascinating to me. He tells us how far Peter swims, how many fish they catch.
He even tells us the kind of fire that Jesus builds: a charcoal fire.
This seems like an odd detail until you remember that in John 18:18, the night Peter denies Jesus three times we are told that Peter is warming himself beside a charcoal fire.
Jesus does this to remind him. Not to rub his nose in it, but to remind him.
When we think of piecing life together, we often want to forget what is broken to move forward. That isn’t possible though. If a marriage falls apart, it is still apart. You can’t forget that. You can’t make that not true. The pieces are there, the brokenness remains, you will feel the affects of that for years, possibly the rest of your life. And so will others.
This fire is an important picture for us.
We have to know that following Jesus does not remove what is true in our lives or what has happened. But Jesus doesn’t leave us there. He transforms us. He changes us.
Then, Jesus asks Peter three times, “do you love me?”
Not because he is hard of hearing or because he wants to annoy Peter, but because Peter denied Jesus three times. He is giving Peter the chance to make things right. Not because Jesus didn’t believe him or because Jesus needed to hear it three times.
Instead, I think Peter needed to say it three times. He needed to know in his own heart that he loves Jesus more than anything.
Grace is often about how we accept it. For many, believing that God forgives them, loves them and gives them grace is a hard thing to believe.
For Peter and maybe you, it might be difficult to believe that Jesus isn’t finished with you.