He scratched at his beard. Wouldn’t be long now and it would be hot. That’s just what he needed – another hot day to follow a completely worthless night.
How long have we been out here? Peter thought as he shielded his eyes from the rising sun. He steadied himself in the boat and stretched his back out. Then he sat down disgustedly, noting the lack of fish in their vessel. Nothing. A whole night spent fishing and nothing. Seemed like a good metaphor for his life.
He sat back down and thought about how quickly things can change. It wasn’t that long ago he fancied himself some kind of leader. That was a huge change in itself, since he had never been anything except a fisherman. But Jesus believed in Him. He nurtured him. He cared for him. And Peter had even started to believe he had what it took to actually be some sort of “pseudo-rabbi” himself, to teach and lead others to the same convictions he had.
Then everything went wrong. The mock trial, the little girl by the fire, the rooster, the cross… he tried to put it out of his mind. Things changed, and then they changed again. He had wept bitterly that night, and then wept with joy 3 days later. But what now?
Jesus was back, and yet Peter felt a twinge of guilt every time he thought about his friend. He knew he should be nothing but happy, but he couldn’t help being torn in another direction. The more he thought about it, he realized how stupid he had been to think he could ever really amount to much. It wasn’t just that single night of the crucifixion; he recalled with startling clarity the string of dumb mistakes he had made over the past 3 years.
That’s why he was fishing. It’s because that’s who he was. It’s all he would ever be. A whole night of fishing and he was exactly where he started… Three years of walking around and he was back where he started.
Apparently the guy on the shore had been yelling at them for a while but Peter was so deep in his thoughts he hadn’t noticed. He only heard the voice when his friends started taking up the nets and putting them down on the other side of the boat.
Whatever. Some guy on the shore yelling at them like he knew how to catch fish better than they did. But whatever.
But then – then there was a commotion on the boat. The net was being weighed down. It was as if every fish in the ocean had suddenly swam upon them. Peter felt the boat start to tip. He looked at the water. Then he looked at the shore. Then he looked back at the water…
The next thing he knew he was out of the boat and into the familiar water. But there was no miraculous walking on top of the waves this time. Only the sloshing and splashing stroke by stroke, each one bringing him closer; every one made him think over his life.
Over and over again.
And then his feet hit the bottom. The others were close behind him in the boat, and he sort of wished they were all there. If they were all there, Peter could disappear back in the crowd. He could be anonymous. But now – in his haste, he hadn’t considered this moment. Just him and Jesus, and all the guilt and awkwardness Peter felt.
He shifted on his feet, dripping a pool on the beach. He looked at anything but Jesus and tried to think of what to say. What does one say in that moment, knowing everything that had happened between them?
“Fancy meeting you here…”
“Thanks for the tip about the nets…”
“It sure is easier walking on the water than being in it.”
Nothing seemed to fit, so he just stood there, wishing the boat behind him would get there faster. But before he knew it, those same bitter tears were filling his eyes. He shook his head to try and fight them back, but it was a worthless endeavor. Finally he looked up.
And what he was there was not a look of condemnation. Jesus didn’t have his arms crossed. He wasn’t shaking his head in disappointment. Instead, Jesus had that slight grin and look of compassion and love Peter had seen so many times before. And when he walked forward, he did so deliberately. Jesus put his hands on Peter’s shoulders, making sure he was able to adequately capture the soaking disciple’s attention. Though the disciples were all there, Peter couldn’t help but feel the words were meant for him:
“How about some breakfast?”