I’ve been thinking about the Apostle Peter a lot lately. He is probably one of the most well-known disciples, he and John, right? John is that disciple whom Jesus loved, but Peter, oh Peter, he seems to be best known for his failures. He was always the one who said the wrong thing, who did the wrong thing – remember when he cut off that guys ear when Jesus was being arrested? Peter, come on! Get your act together.
Peter is probably best known for his denial. Three times he denied his Savior. “I don’t know the man. I have no clue who he is or what you’re talking about. You must be thinking of someone else.” And maybe, like me, you hear with Peter that rooster cock-a-doodle-dooing in the distance, as you witness that brief moment recorded for us in Luke where “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” That must have been…terrible. Do you remember what Peter did after he realized his betrayal, his denial of Jesus, he went and he “wept bitterly.”
Fast-forward a few days. Peter was one of the few who saw the empty tomb. He and John again, they must’ve been quite the duo, both ran to the tomb when Mary Magdalene told them that Jesus’ body couldn’t be found. John was the better runner and beat Peter there, but Peter stepped into the tomb first and saw the burial clothes of Jesus neatly folded, and Luke tells us that he went away wondering what had happened.
It’s here at the tomb with Peter that I wonder. I wonder whether Peter was a little, I’ll say, nervous. If Jesus was alive, if Peter, recalled Jesus’ words about being raised from the dead, and now here it had happened, and then he recalled that the last time they were together was when he, Peter, was denying him…I’d be a little nervous if I was Peter. What’s Jesus going to say to me? What is he going to do to me? How could he ever forgive me?
Have you ever found yourself in a situation like that? Where maybe you’ve messed up. You’ve done something wrong and you really don’t know what the person you’ve wronged is thinking and because of circumstances you don’t have a chance to talk about it, to hash it out, as quickly as you might like. And so you’re left with this weight on your shoulders, this guilt in your mind. It eats at you.
And so we get into our lesson and here is Peter. He is with the rest of his disciple friends and maybe there is some excitement in the air. Jesus is alive; they all have seen him at least twice now. Thomas has seen and touched the marks on Jesus’ side and hands. And maybe Peter was just as excited as the rest, but I still can’t help but think that perhaps he was nervous. And either to get his mind off things or just because it’s what he once did for a living he decided he wanted to do some fishing, “I’m going to fish,” he told the others. And they all decided to go with him – “We’ll go with you.”
We read that their fishing excursion was a bust. They didn’t catch anything but then there was this unfamiliar man on the shore, they couldn’t quite see who he was, and he told them to put their nets on the other side of the boat. They did, and they caught a large number of fish – 153 we read later. And as these disciples were marveling at this miraculous catch, we read this, “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”
This miracle led John, that disciple Jesus loved, to say without a doubt that the man on the shore was none other than Jesus. And “As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water.” Why, why did Peter jump? I think he had to.
Do you remember the last time Peter had gone into the water when Jesus was around? He walked on it; he took a few steps, but then nearly drowned as he lost trust – saved only by Jesus. His years with Jesus were an echo of this. Trust, then failure. Trust, then disappointment, bitter tears. Yet, Jesus never left him. Jesus never sent him away. And here Jesus was again, maybe 100 yards away. Peter couldn’t wait. He had to get to his Lord, his Savior. That’s where his comfort was, there was his peace. So, he jumped.
There is a unique beauty in this picture of a sinner casting oneself out, rushing without hesitation to the Lord. It’s a trust that only we as Christians can ever understand. It’s a certainty that we know without a doubt, without question, that Jesus’ arms are outstretched and waiting for us. Expecting us. Desiring us. Yes, waiting for me a sinner. That’s who he came for. That’s whom he rose for. So, I jump with Peter. Because, if I have a sin, if have a doubt, if I have a fear, if I feel forsaken and alone, I know he won’t turn me away. So, I cast myself and my sins at his feet and I confess. And then I rejoice in my risen Savior.
That’s the power of Jesus. He causes sinners likes us to jump. He draws us to himself. Men, women, children, babies, all who have no right to be with him or around him, he welcomes us. There’s a place for you here with me, he says. How, how can this be? To be honest, on our own we can’t understand it, we won’t understand it. That too is the power of our Lord. He convinces us.
We saw that in our second lesson, do you remember? “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked that. Saul the enemy of God’s people. Saul the great persecutor of the church – he didn’t know! “Who are you, Lord!?” So, God brought him to his knees. God revealed himself to him, filled him with his Spirit and he was baptized into God’s family. Now he knew the Lord, and he never forgot. Does that story sound familiar? It’s yours, the story of a sinner… “Who are you Lord?” We could have never known on our own. We never would have known on our own. But by God’s power and grace we were brought to our knees as he revealed himself to us.
For many of us he was first revealed here in the waters of baptism, and then later there in that holy meal of bread, wine, body, and blood. But always, always he is here in his Word, something we can pick and read every single day. Here he shows us himself. Here we see him with eyes of faith, witnesses of his miracles and his power. Here he speaks to us and gives us that comfort and peace that his first followers received in person. Here we see who he is and can confidently share him with others, He is the Lord! He is my God. He is my Savior. Come and meet him! Come and see! In this way, God has brought us to himself, and through these means he keeps us with him into eternity.
It’s no wonder then why Peter jumped into the waters of the Tiberias when he heard that it was the Lord standing there on the shore. He knew him. He knew him well. It was Jesus who had first called him that day when he was fishing just like this. It was Jesus whom he followed witnessing miracles and hearing wonders. And here was yet another miracle that he witnessed as those nets filled up with fish, but the greatest miracle wasn’t in those nets it was there on the shore.
“It is the Lord!” We here again that disciple cry out. And we see with Peter the miracle. God himself still wrapped in human flesh and blood, alive not dead. He won. Satan lost. This was the risen Lord, Jesus. And you know what that risen Lord, the Savior of the World did? He made breakfast. As Peter came out of that water, wet and tired, he and the other disciples found their Lord waiting with food. Even after he saved the world from sin and death, Jesus still took the time to serve and care for the physical needs of his followers.
That right there is a Lord worth jumping for. That is your Lord. See his power today. Look back and remember how he brought you to himself. Look forward and use as often as you can the means through which he keeps you to himself – the means of grace, his Word and the sacraments. And then know, trust, that God is going to take care of you along the way. And if you ever doubt any of this think of Peter.
He knew where his forgiveness was. He knew where his doubt and fears could be erased. He knew his Lord standing there on the shore. He didn’t hesitate. He jumped. And Jesus, true to form, did not turn him or any of those other disciples away. Instead he fed them, he encouraged them, and later sent them away to carry out their original call, to be fishers of men.
That same Lord is standing there on the shore of his Word. He is calling to you. He is waiting for you, and he’s not about to turn you away. He cares. He loves. He saves. Do you see him? Jump, go to him, and find out for yourself. Amen.