Simon sat on the bow of the boat and watched the eastern sky begin to reveal the first light of day. They had been on the water all night long and had absolutely nothing to show for it. Simon couldn’t sleep because he was confused. Deeply confused.
Simon was a fisherman. Bold and confident, he was also a man of action. He grew up fishing, and manual labor on the open water had weather-toughened his body, mind and spirit. He never hesitated when it came to speaking his mind. And if someone wanted to pick a fight, Simon was more than happy to oblige. He took great pride in taking on challenges.
But Simon had another side to him. The shallow but expansive body of water in which he fished was called Tiberias. It was too big to be a lake, but really too small to be a sea. Regardless, it was a treacherous place where sudden storms and high winds would turn the usually tranquil water into a boiling cauldron of waves and spray. On more than one occasion, it had threatened to take him under. He often wondered if God had spared his life for a reason – if there was something important he was supposed to do. That side of his heart was eager for adventure.
For Simon, Tiberias was a place of comfort he knew like the back of his hand. He could read the water as well as anyone. He didn’t need to look at a calendar to plan his work. The predictable patterns of marine life determined his seasonal schedule: panfish in the winter, sardines in late summer, and barbel in the spring. That’s why he was on the lake. He was looking for comfort.
Of all the fish he pursued, the barbel was his favorite. The largest of the marketable fishes, a good barbel could reach 30 inches and weigh up to 15 lbs. It was the local favorite for holiday feasts and special family gatherings. A good night of fishing for these chunky fish could bring in a month’s wages for Simon and his crew. Simon was good at catching barbel. And like many fisherman who are being skunked, Simon was trying to figure out what he was doing wrong as he sat on the bow of the boat in the early glow of dawn.
And that’s not all that had him confused. The events of the past few weeks were swirling through his head like a storm on Tiberias. Actually, this was only the second time Simon had been fishing in the past three years. The other time he had much better luck. He caught just one fish and it had a silver coin in its mouth. That’s a whole other story, but it was among the thoughts flooding his mind.
The reason Simon hadn’t been fishing was because he had walked away from his business three years earlier to follow a miracle-working itinerant preacher. The man claimed that if Simon followed him he would become a fisher-of-men. Simon had no idea what that meant, but that other side of him, the one that felt God had spared him for a purpose, couldn’t pass up the opportunity. So he walked away from his business and joined the preacher’s entourage.
And oh the miracles he saw. Telling all of the stories would require a book, but suffice it to say that one day, Simon actually walked on the waters of Tiberias during a turbulent storm. Looking across the colorful water as the sun peeked over the horizon, that day seemed very far away.
Just days ago, the man he was following was crucified, dead, and buried. Simon could have done something to stop it, but instead he denied he even knew the man. As that thought entered his mind, a rooster’s crow rang out from the sleepy nearby village. Stupid rooster. So much for being fearless. Simon’s heart was bearing the heavy weight of shame that follows cowardice.
On top of everything else, his dead leader, Jesus, was alive again. Seriously. Simon had seen him and even talked to him. No wonder Simon was confused; nothing was making any sense to him.
Simon was startled out of his thoughts when he heard someone yell out from shore, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” No fisherman likes that question when they have nothing on the stringer.
Then the guy on shore offers unsolicited advice: “Throw your net on the other side of the boat.” What a ridiculous suggestion. One side of the boat or the other, what difference would it make. Out of spite, the quick tempered Simon decides to prove the bystander wrong.
But suddenly the net was full of barbel! There were so many, they couldn’t even pull them into the boat. It was a miracle, and that’s when Simon jumped out of the boat and swam for shore, leaving the rest of the crew to drag in the net loaded with 153 large fish!
It was Jesus, and breakfast was ready. Simon was overjoyed to see him, but the weight of shame was unbearable. Had he forfeited his divine purpose?
After breakfast, Jesus took Simon off to the side and asked him, “Simon, do you love me?” It cut deep to hear Jesus call him by that name. Jesus had given him a new name, Peter, the rock. Simon liked that name. It matched his work ethic and his courage – or so he thought. As a coward, the name Peter no longer fit.
Such a strange question, Simon thought. “Do you love me?” The first two times Jesus asked, Simon simply answered. But the third time? That hurt. Besides roosters, Simon no longer cared for the number three.
But what intrigued Simon more was Jesus’ responses. They were filled with purpose! Jesus still had work for Simon to do! In a moment, Jesus poured out risen grace on Simon Peter. He forgave Peter and restored him to his purpose!
My friend, risen grace can do the same for you. Have you failed? You’re not alone. We’ve all failed. But Jesus came to restore us to the purposes for which He created us. Are you ready to let risen grace restore you? God has a purpose for you – a divine purpose restored by risen grace!
You can read all about this special story in the Gospel of John, chapter 21. May you have a blessed and meaningful Good Friday and a joyous Resurrection Sunday!