But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
Those words kept ringing in the Galilean fisherman’s ears all night, filling him with both excitement and dread as his boat bobbed on the waters of the Sea of Tiberias. The salty scent of the sea and the cool breeze had been commonplace to him for much of his life, but after a three-year stint away from the trade, he realized that he’d missed it. The familiarity of the scenery was probably what he needed right about now.
Simon and his brother Andrew had left their fishing business to follow their teacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Oh, but he was so much more. This miracle-working rabbi had changed their lives with his message of bringing God’s kingdom to the world, and showing that it starts in the hearts of men. Simon – or ‘Peter’ as Jesus called him, the unshakeable stone – and his friends were convinced that he was sent of God and was, indeed, the son of God. Those last three years had changed their lives forever. Most especially, those three days at Passover.
Jesus was killed by the people. It was a spectacle that ruined Passover for the whole nation gathered at Jerusalem. His followers had all gone into hiding in the days that followed, afraid they would be next. And then on the third day, Jesus suddenly was not dead anymore. The grave was empty.
He was alive. Again, it filled Simon with both joy and dread.
The past few days had been filled with some of the most extraordinary events. The women had seen an angel at the tomb, telling them that Jesus had risen. And, sure enough, Jesus appeared to the disciples and spoke with them. He had since been seen at different places, interacting with the people, walking with some as they travelled, coming and going as he pleased, encouraging them. These were truly exciting times to be alive.
But for Simon, as excited as he was, he needed a return to some normalcy. He had decided to go fishing when some of the others asked to come along.
“Ugh, how you folk do this is beyond me,” Thomas said from the stern. He had not been a fisherman before and had come along just to be among his friends.
“For starters, by not making comments like that,” Andrew came back.
“We’ve been here all night!”
John smiled. “We’d make a fisherman of you yet. Like my Pa used to say, no fishin’, no eatin’, no sleepin’. We die here.”
Thomas blinked. “Well, looks like we really don’t have to die anymore, eh?”
James shook his head. “It was just an expression. An anachronism, really—“
“I mean, I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but I put my finger in the nail hole of His hand, man.”
“We were there,” Andrew said over his shoulder.
“We should be out there, showing Him to the world. It’s nothing short of incredible. One moment he’s dead and we think we’re goners, the next he’s right there, standing in front of us.”
John chuckled. “You’ve been going over the same thing all night.”
“I mean, I didn’t believe you guys before. It was going to be the last time I allowed myself to accept the supernatural. But then He called me by name. As if He knew.”
“He always did know,” Nathanael said. “Things men weren’t supposed to know, He knew. Like the time he first met me, he told me where I had been earlier that day …”
And on and on they kept recounting events from their times with Jesus. Words he had spoken before suddenly made more sense in hindsight.
But for Simon, memories were what he was running from. The particular memory of that night. The night he denied knowing Jesus.
He had always known himself to be courageous, strong and always ready to take risks for a worthy cause. Maybe that’s why he had stuck out here all night, to once again prove to himself that he was strong and rugged. Because that one night, in the face of something he should have stood for, he had cowered like a rat.
Jesus had known beforehand too, and warned him.
The night Jesus was arrested Simon was ready to die for him, or to even rescue him. He had even snuck around the high priest’s house during the hearings. But then he was found out.
First it was the servant-girl that recognised him as one of his disciples. Sharply, without giving it a second thought, he retorted, “No way! I’m not!”
It was just strategy, he had thought. Soon enough he would be able to get in and get Jesus out of there.
Then as he warmed himself by the fire, someone asked again. “I am not one His disciples!”
But his accent gave him away. And then he found himself believing what he was trying to say. For that moment, swearing and cursing, he yelled, “I have no idea who you’re talking about! I don’t know this Jesus! I have nothing to do with Him!”
And the cock crowed, just as Jesus had said.
He was Peter, the unshakeable stone, the courageous disciple. The one who had always been with Jesus. The one who had seen Moses and Elijah appear to speak with Jesus. The one they all looked to. But when it really mattered, all of that was gone. For the first time, he saw the weakling that he was. That he had always been. He felt nothing like a Peter anymore. Beneath the unshakeable stone that Jesus had thought he was, he was simply Simon, son of Jonah.
But now Jesus was alive.
The angel had told the women, “Go tell His disciples, and Peter…” Jesus had not rejected him despite his denial. He should feel loved, grateful, thankful … but it made Simon feel small. Weak. Helpless. He did not deserve this.
Jesus had appeared to them, but He’d not mentioned the denials. Would He ever?
Simon turned to his friends and caught John’s stare. The younger man had been there that night, but he had not mentioned that bit to the others. No one knew of his denial of Jesus. They would never believe it.
Just as they never would have believed Judas would betray the Master.
“Got new orders for us, Captain?” John asked.
Simon was about to respond when a voice called from the beach. “Shalom aleichem, young men! Got any fish?”
“This would be embarrassing,” Thomas muttered.
“Not yet!” James called. “But we will! Shalom!”
“Way to keep the faith…”
“How ‘bout you cast your nets to the right of your vessel?”
“Just as well. The spectator thinks he knows how to fish better than us —“
“THOMAS!” they all turned to him, weary of his sarcastic banter.
Simon grunted, pulling up the nets. “We might as well. Don’t make no difference, anywhichways.”
“You know what this reminds me of?” Andrew piped.
“Don’t,” Simon said under his breath.
“We all know this story,” John added. “When you first met Jesus!”
“Don’t need to recount it,” Simon said.
“What’s your deal?” Andrew said. “Why are you so down when we’re all… whoa, didn’t expect that.” He pulled harder at the net. “Guys, are you seeing this?”
Simon was feeling it more than seeing it. The nets were suddenly getting tauter by the second. And heavier. It could be anything … but he knew it couldn’t be just anything except…
“Ah!” Thomas yelped as a fish splashed on his face and down on the deck, to the amusement of the others. And more fish came up. The net was tipping the boat on its side as it filled with more fishes, piling and squirming in.
“Is this really happening?”
“Good Golan Heights, put your backs into it!” Simon yelled. “We’ve hit the mother lode, boys.”
“Oi, again with the anachronisms,” James muttered between pants.
Simon felt a nudge. It was John, looking back to shore. “Isn’t this the kind of thing He’d do?”
Simon followed his gaze. The stranger on the beach was still standing there, a smile barely visible from this distance. Barely familiar, if Simon allowed himself to go that far.
John turned to him. “It’s Him! It’s the Master!”
Simon knew. Like in a dream, he realised he had really always known. He knew with all his heart that—
“Whoa! Hold on!”
But Simon had already grabbed his coat and leaped into the sea. He came up for air. “I’m OK! Tie the nets to the stern and drag it to shore.” And with that he swam, hurrying towards shore. Hurrying towards Jesus.
The Master stood on the shore, grinning. A fire of coals lay by his feet, and sure enough fish was roasting on it. He had bread in his hands. Wait, if He already had fish why was He asking for fish? And He still grinned, a twinkle in His eye.
“Master…” Simon ran into His embrace, still wet and cold.
“It’s about time, My friend.”
The others arrived by the boat, the net dragging behind them. If sight were any judge Peter guessed there were over a hundred fish caught. If he were still in the business this would have been a windfall. Amazingly, the net had not broken. But the Master was here. The disciples hurried over to him.
“You guys have been at sea all night,” He rubbed his palms. “Join me. Let’s have breakfast.”
It was just like old times. After they had laid out the fish to dry they sat with the Master as they caught up on everything that had been going on. Nothing else felt wrong in the world when they were with the Master, even though they could not keep their eyes off the holes in His hands no matter how hard they tried. Even Simon’s fears seemed to hang somewhere in the back of his mind now.
When they were done, Jesus turned to him. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me more than these?”
“Without question, Master.” He felt the gazes of the others bore into him. He felt John’s the one who had been there that night. He had once felt like the Master’s most loyal follower. Not anymore. But he wanted Jesus to know that he did love him. “You know that I love you, Master.”
Jesus nodded. “My lambs, I want you to feed them. Feed my lambs.”
So Jesus still trusted him with responsibility, just like always.
But He wasn’t done. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me?”
He had not put the comparison with the others this time. Simon’s response was less confident. “Yes, Master. You know that I do. Love you.” He gulped. “You know that I love you, Master.”
Jesus nodded. “Feed my sheep.” He sidled closer. “Simon bar Jonah. Do you love me?”
It was the third time.
Just like the three times he denied Jesus.
He knows! And He’s telling me that He does.
“Lord, you know all things. You know that I really do love you.”
I am sorry, Lord.
“Feed my sheep.”
Peter blinked. Really? Despite all that You know? You trust me to feed your people?
Jesus looked up at the others, bringing them into the conversation. “You see, when you were younger, you could dress up and go and do whatever it is you wanted to. When you get older, others will help you get there. You will be too frail to.” He looked into their eyes. “Sometimes your spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
He had said the same in the garden, before his crucifixion. Simon remembered this well, because Jesus had said it to him.
“This is the death that would glorify God. The more you grow in My grace, the more you will see My strength aiding you, empowering you in all you need to do. Your dependence on Me, not by your strength. Not the strength you think you have, but the one I give. The arm of flesh will fail.” He turned to Simon. “It always does. This is the death that glorifies God. The death of self, so that My life may flow through you. Without me, you really can do nothing.”
He placed His hand on his shoulder. “Follow me.”
There was something about knowing that Jesus knew every detail of him – his strengths and flaws – and still accepting him that assured Peter that he was in the right place. In the day of adversity, his strength had failed. But this strength that Jesus was promising, this Holy Spirit that He had been promising to send from the Father would help him to be and do all that he needs to. To stand in the face of adversity, to walk in His Master’s footsteps.
To follow Jesus.
And, yes, now he felt like an unshakeable stone. Unshakeable, because he would be held not by his own power, but by the power of God.
Yes, he knew he really was Peter.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,
Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Peter in a letter to the exiles of the dispersion, circa A.D. 65-68 over 30 years after the Resurrection
(1 Peter 1:3-5)
To every one of us, our courage can only carry us so far.
And when our strength fails, it makes us feel less than we thought we were. It makes us doubt our strength.
But God sees that. He does not berate us for acting or being weaker than we ought. No, He comes to our very level to show us His strength and enablement, and by His love brings us to His level. As we grow to trust Him more, our confidence in Him is restored, and we grow in Him. Soon we realise that what made us afraid really is nothing in the face of the Lord who is alive in us.
Like David said, “…when my heart is overwhelmed, ‘Lead me to the rock that is higher than I!’ ” (Psalm 61:2)
God’s perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). His love toward us makes us realise then that He does not come to judge us for our fear. He comes to calm our hearts so we can see Him bigger than our fears, and we can trust in His strength.
And that’s what He delights in. Like a Father, He embraces us and sings in our ears, surrounding us with songs of His deliverance (Psalm 32:7). Telling our hearts of His power to save and deliver. This is how He casts out our fear. Through His words to us.
Therefore, we cannot afford to be distant from God’s Word. It is how He speaks to us, through what He has said as it is written. The Holy Spirit is alive and at work in us to give us understanding and to guide us.
This is the ultimate victory over fear, God’s love for us. He showed this completely in redemption, coming as Man to die and rise for our sake, to make us free from the bonds of sin and death.
Our awareness and acceptance of His love toward us is what frees us from fear.
Everything that could ever defeat you has been defeated by Jesus’ death on the cross. Through His victory over death, He has taken away its sting over you. You need not fear death, or anything else. We are more than conquerors ‘…through Him that loved us!’ (Romans 8:37)
I consistently remind myself of the fact that if God loves me that much, He would not let evil befall me. It is not His nature or desire to. So even if there is an appearance of evil looming, like the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil “For Thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4)
Your victory over fear is not in your confidence in yourself. Rather, it is in your confidence in God’s love for you and His power at work in you. The more you give yourself to His Word, the more your heart receives His songs of deliverance, and the more your mindset is transformed to see your fears as the shadows they simply are in the face of the One Who is in you. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.
So even if you’ve ever given in to fear, it’s OK. All Jesus asks of you, from wherever you are in your faith walk or lack thereof, is what Jesus has asked of us all. Just as He said to Peter. It’s His Way, the only Way that gives you Life, and Love.