by Andrew Consiglio - Leader and Director of Youth Fellowship
For all the joy of the resurrection and our relationship with God, we find that we still have to battle, that temptation can still be very real, that we are weak. This is what Peter found – the great promise breaker.
- A Promise Breaker Fails
- A Promise Keeper Restores
- A Promise Breaker becomes a Promise Keeper
A Promise Breaker Fails
Between the 1960s and 1990s, in a somewhat exaggerated way, people said ‘life is what happens when you are not watching TV.’ So much has changed and perhaps today we can say ‘Life is what happens when you are not on the internet or smartphone’.
What has not changed from 3000BC to 2016 is that life has its difficult moments moments for everyone, including Christians. When we feel threatened, down, afraid, anxious, lonely and so on, we are more prone to temptation.
But even when we are feeling very good about life and ourselves we can be vulnerable. Let us hear the words of the Promise Breaker:
Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
John 13:36 -38
This is in fact what happened. But what may have been one of its possible causes? After Jesus was arrested and they took him to Caiphas we read ‘Peter followed at a distance’ (John 22:54).
Would you blame him? What happened to Jesus could well happen to him. Better follow but at a safe distance.
We too find ourselves breaking our promises: I’ll pray more, I’ll trust you even when it is difficult, I’ll be pure, I won’t get angry. So we should not follow at a safe distance but follow the Lord as closely as we can.
A Promise Breaker Restores
When we were kids and got up to some mischief we’d often hear words like ‘this is your last chance’. Thank God it is not like that with Jesus. He knows Peter’s heart and wants to restore Him – that is why He is our Saviour.
At the place called Tabgha Peter and the others give in to discouragement and even decide to go back to fishing. Yet even that turns out bad because they fish all night and they catch nothing.
One can imagine how heavy and frustrated Peter felt; a guilty conscience, no fish, no Jesus… life was becoming unbearable.
But darkness can’t fight the light forever and we all know this is true even morning at dawn. When the light appears the darkness has to recede. So to emphasis this point many of Jesus’ Resurrection appearances occur at dawn!!
Jesus cares about forgiving us, healing us, restoring us if we turn to Him in repentance. We change but He doesn’t! If we read the calling of Peter in Luke chapter 5 we see a very similar incident – ‘they had been fishing all night, they caught nothing’.
Jesus first asks a question. The Greek reads like this: you haven’t caught anything have you? Expecting no for an answer Jesus tells them to try again and wow what a catch.
The word of Jesus put into practice makes all the difference! We see that there is abundance of mercy, in fact there is more mercy in Him than there is sin in us.
He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
The Greek world for haul is the same word found in John 6:44 ‘No one come to me unless the Father draws (helkusei) draws Him and whoever comes to me I will never turn away’.
The second thing Jesus does is help Peter face himself, his sin, and his broken promises. He doesn’t say ‘It’s OK, what could I expect from someone like you?’. Burying it is not going to help.
He does this by preparing the breakfast fish on charcoal fire. The last time Peter had seen charcoal fire was in the courtyard of Caiphas’ house where he had denied Jesus.
It was cold and the servants and officials stood around a charcoal fire (anthrakia) they had made to keep warm. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
He asks Him ‘do you love me ?’ 3 times which reminds Peter of his 3 denials. Peter doesn’t dare makes false promises again. The experience of his sin has made him humble and he is careful not to rush promises – he needs to grow.
No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again. Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall.
Don’t be afraid to open your heart totally to God for mercy and for healing. ‘The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’
A Promise Breaker becomes a Promise Keeper
Fed by the breakfast of bread and fish (the Eucharist) and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Promise Breaker really becomes a Promise Keeper.
Jesus had prepared some fish already but he wants them to cook the fish they had caught now – he always wants our collaboration, our own effort helped by him already.
Peter, as we know, does fulfil the mission to be a fisher of men and to feed Jesus’ sheep.
With Peter who ran away because he was afraid of dying, Jesus takes up the subject again. In the light of the resurrection death takes on a very different meaning.
Death is not extinguishing the light from the Christian; it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.