Read John 21:1-19
I love the last chapter of the book of John. It is the story of giving up, disappointments, repentance, restoration and commission.
This chapter shows Peter and the disciples giving up on Jesus. Peter said, “I am going fishing!”. After three years of following Jesus, seeing all the signs, wonders, miracles and hearing Jesus teaching and spending time with Jesus, Peter is giving up.
This sounds so familiar, doesn’t it? After some considerable time in ministry, we may get to the point of giving up, and some do.
For Peter, there was the disappointment, the hurt of letting Jesus, himself and his friends down. He was hurt. He was disappointed with his actions. This is Peter, the leader who denied him when Jesus needed a friend; three times, he said, “I don’t know him”. Then he remembered, at the sound of the rooster, the promise: “I will never leave you”. Yet left him and denied him. We are told that he wept bitterly, I would.
I have denied Jesus more than once; it is hard to recognise this, yet it is the truth, when I have failed to talked to someone when I was prompted by the Spirit to do so. I know how hard this may sound and how heartbreaking this is for me. Yet, Jesus has a way of bringing us back to him, and if we read the signs, then the road to remaining in his presence is full of grace, power and hope.
Peter experienced this, but how?
Do you remember how Jesus and the disciples went fishing?
Most of them were fishermen, so they knew their skills. However, that day was a disaster. Jesus told them to put the net on the other side of the boat, and Peter complained he was the most experienced one. He put Jesus in his proper place, telling him they have worked so hard, but because Jesus is asking, they will do it, and they did. To their amazement, they called another boat because the catch was so big. In this setting, Peter experienced what I believe is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. He said to Jesus, “I am a sinful man, Get away from me, Lord”. Nowhere in this story is Jesus teaching about sin or repentance. Yet, it was this miracle where he understood that he was before someone holy and divine. The presence of Jesus, holiness, grace and love was enough to bring that conviction out of Peter’s soul. This was the Encounter of Salvation and Repentance.
Then we have another revelation of who Jesus is. When Jesus asked the disciples: Who do you think am I?
“He said to them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and I will build my church on this rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:15–19 ESV)
This is an encounter about the revelation of Jesus. He is the Son of God. An acknowledgement that came from the very presence of God the Father and Peter was open enough to receive it. “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. He is telling everyone that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah and the Son of the Living God, an Old Testament reference to the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. He is the God of the Living and not the dead. Jesus even said to Peter that this revelation came from his own Father. Then after this, he calls out his purpose, destinies and authority. This is the Encounter and revelation of the Son of God.
The last encounter in the life of Peter is this one: “And after six days Jesus took Peter and John and James, his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”
(Matthew 17:1–8 ESV)
This is the Encounter with the Glory of Jesus. Only Peter and John were able to see Jesus glorified. They were able to see how Jesus talked to Moses and Elijah! Two of the most important figures of the Old Testament. One represents the Word of God, and the other Prophetic ministry. Yet, Peter did not know what to say and what he said was quickly ignored. These two were terrified, to the point of falling to the ground. There is something so powerful and moving, and when we find ourselves contemplating the glory of God and all its splendour, our mortality is revealed, and our sins are exposed.
This is the Encounter with the Glory of Jesus
I believe that in our journey with Jesus, we may have encountered the presence of Jesus in these three ways. At least one is for sure, and if you are not, I would recommend that you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and accept him as Lord and Saviour.
So let me ask you this:
Have you lost that impact of your first Encounter?
Have you forgotten who Jesus is?
Have you tested and seen that Jesus is good and glorious, but there is not much glory now?
Our reality is fragile; we get discouraged and down, and if we are not careful, we grow cold.
Here in John 21, Jesus brings Peter to the first Encounter, the salvation encounter. Peter heard Jesus almost the exact words, put your nets down on the other side! When they did, they were struggling to contain the boat because of the amount of fish. Then Peter realised that it was Jesus and he jumped out of the boat and began to swim towards Jesus who was cooking breakfast on the shore. He could not contain himself, and I believe he obeyed the nudge of the Holy Spirit. As most people do, Peter could have stayed on the boat and turned away. But he didn’t.
Sometimes to get restored, we are taken back to our first Encounter, the Encounter of the first love, and to relive it and experience it again so we can move forward. This is what Jesus, I believe, did!
Then, Jesus asked Peter three questions that once again defined and restored Peter. Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me? Peter, the Lord, you know that I love you! Then Jesus said feed my sheep, feed my lambs, take care of my sheep. Feed and taking care are the call of the shepherds.
When I am discouraged, when I have let him down, when I am growing cold, the Holy Spirit brings me back to my first encounter with Jesus. As I had said before, that day, I experienced the fire of God, I saw fire all around me, and the cleansing power of forgiveness and the baptism of fire.
Maybe this is different for you. The Lord will bring you back to where you began to grow cold, or he may take you back to the Encounter of glory, the Encounter of the Son of God or the Encounter of salvation. Just make sure that you find yourself swimming towards Jesus.