I previously have set forth certain reflections on Chapter 21 of the Gospel of John. Here are additional reflections on that Chapter (full text below) focused on the conversation on the beach between Jesus and Simon Peter.
On the boat Peter had stripped off his clothes to avoid their getting entangled in the fishing nets. But when he recognized Jesus, Peter put his clothes back on in perhaps a subconscious attempt to conceal his sinfulness in rejecting Jesus three times after the arrest.
Peter’s covering himself is similar to the reaction of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after eating the forbidden fruit and needing to clothe themselves when God cried out for them. No one wants to be naked before God and exposing all of his or her sins.
After coming ashore and having a delicious, needed breakfast on the beach, Peter was asked a question by Jesus, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these [other disciples]?” Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus did not directly challenge the answer, but did so indirectly with the comment, “Feed my lambs.” In other words, “Prove your love for me by loving others.”
This scene essentially is repeated two more times.
With his thrice repeated question Jesus implicitly was telling Peter that Jesus knew of his three denials. But Jesus did not criticize or rebuke Peter for these failings. Instead Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”
Jesus chose Peter to start the church. And Peter chose to accept this call.
It is another example of God’s choosing a flawed human being to do something new and of that human being’s choosing to accept the call of God.
As a teenager I could not understand why God chose imperfect individuals like Peter and David to do God’s work. Now with many more years of experience, I can see that if God only used perfect ones, all of the rest of us would wait for someone else to answer the call for service, and the work would never get done. Besides, no one is perfect. Flippantly I say, “God is like a beggar, and beggars can’t be choosers.”
John 21: 1-19 (New Revised Standard):
- “After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of [Galilee]; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
- Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. The disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
- When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.”
- “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’”
- “A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.'”
- “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.'”
- “‘Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.'”