It probably started as a fairly normal workday for Peter. The commotion at the shore would perhaps have been a welcome distraction as the crowd appeared, jostling to hear from and to get a look at the man from Nazareth as He spoke.
Peter was washing his nets, a task he’d done many times before, when suddenly, the teacher got into his boat and asked Peter to push out a little from the shore so He could speak to the crowd.
There was more than one boat there on that shore that day, but Jesus got into Peter’s, and nothing would ever be the same for him again.
It wasn’t long before Peter was on his knees wrestling with a miraculous catch of fish, almost sinking his boat, and begging Jesus to leave him:
“Go away from me Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 4:8b (NIV)
Instead, Jesus invited Peter to join him and cast his net for fish no more. So Peter dropped his nets, left his boat, and followed Jesus into the pages of history.
When God gets in your boat, your life will never be the same.
Amongst themselves, Peter was the unofficial leader of the disciples, speaking often and never hesitant with his opinions. Sometimes, Peter had an uncanny knack for cutting right to the truth and sometimes ... well, I’ll just point out that he’s the only person in history who was interrupted and told to “be quiet!” by all three members of the Trinity at some stage in the Gospels.
He waded into conflict, he bravely spoke up; he even once, briefly, walked on water with Jesus. But on the night before the crucifixion, Peter denied Jesus no less than three times, just as Jesus had said he would.
Devastated with his denials, Peter hid himself away while his friend and rabbi Jesus was beaten, crowned with thorns, stripped naked and finally nailed to a bitter cross where He would breathe His last.
When Mary, the Magdalene, came breathlessly to the door with the news that the body of Jesus had been taken, Peter ran with John to see. Finding nothing but an empty grave, he left to return to hiding. His life was in danger, he’d denied his rabbi, and nothing mattered anymore.
Peter was there when Jesus appeared to the disciples and he was there when Thomas was encountered in his doubt and set free, but his angry denials of Jesus must have still been ringing in his ears, because on one day after the Resurrection, by the sea of Tiberias, Peter decided to pick back up the nets he’d thrown down years before. He decided to return to fishing.
Peter must have felt that his denials had disqualified him. Surely he expected that something amazing was coming now that Jesus was risen from the grave, but perhaps he felt it was something he would no longer be part of.
He’d failed. It was over. God had gotten in his boat and Peter had blown it in his fear.
Of course, he was still a leader, so the others joined Peter that evening, and they fished through a long night, their nets empty as the sun began to rise.
But then they heard a voice from the shore:
He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
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. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” 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. John 21:5-7 (NIV)
It’s an incredible scene the other disciples find when they reach the shore with their miraculous catch: the risen Saviour and a soaking wet disciple, sitting beside a breakfast fire. And in that charged moment, Jesus reinstates Peter, demonstrating that His love and grace expressed on the cross meant that Peter was no longer disqualified, regardless of his denials, his betrayals, his sin or his shame.
The grace and love of Jesus is still the same for us today. Perhaps we’ve made choices that we feel disqualify us, or we’ve chosen paths that led to sorrow and shame, or we’ve broken every promise with furious denials.
Maybe there was a time when we felt God was in our boat, but we blew it too … and now He feels distant and we feel the heaviness of our shame, our denials, and our sorrow.
Easter is the truth that Jesus still stands on the shore of our lives, waiting for us to fling ourselves into the water, making our way back to His hope and His dream for our lives.
If you’re still breathing today, He’s waiting. Your journey is not yet written in full. Your past does not define you. Your name is on His heart and your future is in His hands.
Your story isn’t over and He’s not finished with His favour on your life.
The water waits.
Come and have breakfast with your Saviour on the shores of hope renewed.