9 Minute Read

Today’s Bible Reading:

2 Samuel 19:11-20:13
John 21:1-25
Psalm 120:1-7
Proverbs 16:16-17

Today’s Bible Verse(s):

John 21:7 (NLT): “Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It’s the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore.”

Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):

As a young adult, I talked about grace but knew very little of it.

I found it easy to criticize others for their apparent spiritual flaws. I looked down my nose at those who didn’t measure up to the standard that I proudly (but erroneously) thought I had attained. When someone hurt me, I found it difficult, even impossible, to forgive them. In other words, I was a typical Pharisee.

As I have grown older and as the Lord has had time to work on me, I have come to a very keen awareness that I need grace much more than anyone else. Even though I still have more “Pharisee” in me than I care to admit, I have come to a greater understanding of the beautiful grace that God has called us to live by and share with others. 

If you have been following the One Year Bible reading plan (that appears at the beginning of each of these articles), you would have read the last chapter of John today. In this last chapter, we see so much grace. 

In fact, when we look at how John began his Gospel account, we realize that he started with grace as a person and principle.

John 1:14 (NLT): “So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love (literally “grace”) and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” 

John 1:16 (NLT): “From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another (literally “grace upon grace”).”

So, as John started his Gospel account with the theme of grace, he then proceeded to write the story of the One who personifies grace. The Gospel of John simply shows how Jesus lived a life of grace, extended grace (and truth) to people, and encouraged His followers to live by grace.

As we get to the final chapter of John, which is in our reading assignment today, we come to a beautiful picture of grace. Peter was living in shame as he reflected on the fact that he was the only apostle to deny Jesus (3 times!). Even though he was in Jesus’ presence, I suspect that defeat was written all over his face. 

When Jesus, the man Peter had abandoned in His time of deepest need, asked all of His disciples to bring some of the fish they had just caught, only Peter is said to have pulled at the net and gotten the fish (John 21:11). He wasn’t vying for a position of preeminence. He was satisfied with being the servant. He had the defeated attitude of the prodigal son when he said:

Luke 15:18-19 (NLT): “I will go home to my father and say, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.’” 

Interestingly, Jesus had started a charcoal fire (John 21:9) as Peter stepped out of the water onto shore. It seems that grabbing some scraps of wood and brush would have been the most convenient way to start a fire on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The fact that Jesus had charcoal meant that He started that particular kind of fire on purpose.

What was the purpose of the charcoal fire as Jesus prepared to fish for Peter’s heart? Simply that the only other time we are told of a charcoal fire in the New Testament was when Peter was denying Jesus (John 18:17-18). So, Jesus was recreating the powerful smell when Peter denied Him. Jesus wanted that smell to fill Peter’s lungs, shamefully remembering his denial, as Jesus graciously pulled Peter back onto the team and into His favor.

As we listen to Jesus’ gracious conversation with Peter, asking Peter if he loved Him, this happened in front of all the other apostles. Peter felt like a fraud and a hypocrite in front of the other apostles. Yet, Jesus graciously asked Peter three times (the same number as his denials) if he loved Him. 

Then, Jesus graciously said (if I could be so bold as to speak Jesus’ words in contemporary language, including the things that were implied):

“Peter, this issue is over. Our relationship is now mended. There’s work to do, so let’s get started. Oh, and by the way, Peter, there is coming a time when you will have another chance to deny Me or face death but you will valiantly pass the test and choose death (John 21:18). You will not want to experience the pain of the particular way you will be killed, but you will face it courageously. So, mighty man of valor (Judges 6:12), let’s quit looking behind us and look ahead to all of the Kingdom work I need you to do.”

Peter had previously felt so defeated that he would have been content to go back to fishing (John 21:3). Yet, Jesus graciously had so much more in store for Peter. In fact, in a very short period of time, Peter would preach a sermon and about 3,000 would go public with their newfound faith (Acts 2:41).

Friend, even if you denied Jesus and abandoned Him in His darkest hour, He is so gracious that He would work to pull you back in. You cannot possibly imagine how much love He has for you. Your job and mine is now to mentally and emotionally live in that gracious love and then share it with others.

Matt Ellis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida (fbcpolkcity.com). His latest book is God’s Grace in the Real World. Connect with him on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash