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Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” - John 21:3 (NLT)
Waiting reveals a lot about the condition of our hearts. I’ve waited for a lot in my life—to hear back from a job interview, for a wife and then kids, for breakthroughs in challenging situations in my life. However, none of that seems to hold a candle to the holding pattern we all find ourselves in these days. We’re waiting for the world to return to normal, or at least to look more familiar than it does today.
In John 21, Peter and the rest of the disciples were waiting. They knew Jesus was alive, but they were waiting for the Holy Spirit. They had the truth, but they were waiting for the mission. They were between the Gospels, where Jesus comes to fulfill His mission of dying on the cross for our sins, and Acts, where the Church explodes to reach the world with God’s Good News.
Notice what Peter does in the waiting. As impulsive as ever, he just can’t sit still. “I’m going fishing.” Peter loves the action—he just wants to get back to work, back to normal! But what if the Lord just wanted Peter to heal? To know that he was loved in spite of his denial of Jesus? You know, it’s tempting when we’re waiting to jump into activity and avoid the heart-work God wants to do in our lives.
What if God has something new for us in this season? What if we were never meant to return to normal, to settle for the way things used to be? What if God has so much more to do in and through us? What if He wants us to heal before we get back to work?
“We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. - John 21:5 (NLT)
If we’re not careful, we can lead others out of our own brokenness. That’s what we see here; Peter is still broken. Not many days ago, he had denied Jesus not only once, but three times. He’s waiting for what’s next. Does Jesus still have a place for him in the mission? Can he be restored? It’s probably a combination of boredom and frustration that led him back into the fishing boat. Clearly, Peter is a leader because the other disciples quickly follow him. They’re eager to say, “We’ll come too.” We can never underestimate the impact of our influence.
At Southland’s 2020 Men’s Conference, Lecrae talked about the importance of our scars. Our scars give others hope that their wounds can heal. However, when we are leading from a place of woundedness, we take people places they were never meant to go, places that aren’t fruitful but are frustrating and devoid of life, places where they won’t catch anything. In this season, I see this all too clearly with my kids. I can quickly lead them down the road of emotion with one angry outburst, frustrated glance, or sarcastic question.
While we’re waiting, it’s a good time to stop and consider our wounds. We can’t jump back in the boat right now; we don’t have anywhere to go! So let’s ask ourselves these questions: Are there any frustrations that continue to creep up in our heart? Any wounds, new or old, that have yet to heal? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to bring healing to those areas, or are we pushing them back under the surface to avoid the discomfort?
He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” - John 21:5 (NLT)
Jesus always shows up in our places of disappointment. When Jesus appears to Peter and the other disciples by the Sea of Galilee, He isn’t just there to help them catch fish (although I love that He’s even concerned about such small details as empty fishing boats). He’s there not just to redeem a disappointing fishing outing, but to redeem a man. A man who needs to be made whole. A man who needs to know if he’s still in. A man who is beating himself up every single day, rehearsing the mistake over and over again, always hearing the piercing crow of a rooster in the back of his mind.
Jesus didn’t have to ask if they’d caught any fish. He knew they hadn’t. He also knew that He was planning to provide them with a huge catch. He was there to restore Peter. When Peter realizes it’s the Lord, in typical Peter-fashion, he impulsively jumps out of the boat and swims to shore, leaving his buddies behind.
When Jesus confronts us about our sin, when He meets us at the place of our disappointment, He is always there with a gentle invitation. His kindness leads us to repentance. That’s what causes Peter to run to Him. He isn’t afraid of Jesus. He doesn’t swim the other way. The loving, merciful grace of Jesus invites him to come, despite his failure. Today, Jesus is inviting us to come to Him despite our sin and failure, too.
“Now come and have some breakfast!” - John 21:12 (NLT)
I like to be busy. My wife will tell you that doesn’t always translate into projects being completed around the house, but I do love keeping a full calendar, having places to go and people to see. I really miss the excitement of seeing all of you on Sunday morning!
Before the Lord can give Peter a new mission, He invites Him to breakfast. My kids laughed at the fact that they ate fish for breakfast in this story, but I think I’d be willing to eat fish, steak, or even Brussels sprouts for breakfast if it meant spending time with Jesus!
Healing comes as we take time to rest in the presence of Jesus. Jesus wants to give us fresh strength for the journey, and He does that as we spend time with Him—listening, learning, praying, worshipping. For Peter, that looked like fish and a charcoal fire on a beach. For me, it often looks like a quiet house, a warm cup of Baxter’s Coffee, my Bible, and a journal. It is in those precious moments that I’m reminded how deeply loved I am, that one day my faith will be made sight, and that He is my reward. Life is found in these moments because we are encountering Jesus, and He is the source of life. He is the one who makes us whole.
“...feed my sheep.” - John 21:17 (NLT)
Once we’re made whole by resting in the love of Jesus, we’re ready to be put to work. And wouldn’t you know that the work of Jesus is always to take care of people? That’s the danger of missing the moment to pause—like Peter, we can make ourselves busy fishing instead of caring for lost and hurting people around us. When Jesus comes to us with a new mission, it’s always about others.
That’s what I love about our church. You love people. You’re literally feeding hundreds, if not thousands, of people through local food pantry partnerships and backpack programs. You’re making masks for medical workers, writing notes to teachers, delivering food to first responders, and praying for your communities. You’re investing in one another—making phone calls, sending texts, arranging Zoom calls to encourage each other. You have a heart to feed God’s sheep.
I don’t know what the months ahead hold, but I do know that the world needs the Church to unleash a revolution of love like never before, and I believe we are uniquely positioned to do just that because of YOU! So as we ride out this quarantine—rest in Jesus, let Him heal any broken places in your heart, and let’s love the people around us like never before!