When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
It might have looked like a picnic. But it wasn’t.
It was by a lake. A small group of men was gathered near some fish cooking over hot coals, and some bread was there. Seeing this, someone might have thought perhaps it was a crew of fishermen gathered for breakfast. Indeed, it might have been that.
But it was not a picnic.
These men had recently gone through traumatic experiences. One of their friends had recently committed suicide. Another had shamelessly denied he belonged to this group. Their leader had been executed.
These men had witnessed the horrible and seen the impossible. They were coping with the horrendous aftermath of one event and the wonderful afterglow of another.
They were eight of the famous twelve disciples of Jesus. They were meeting with the one who had died and then rose from the dead. They wrestled with a jumble of emotions. Their lives had been radically changed. Their relationship with Jesus was now very different. He no longer stayed with them, and he suddenly would appear and then disappear.
They knew he would soon leave them and not return.
They had to process all this. They needed to decompress. They wanted to know what to expect in the future. One of them questioned if he still was accepted as a disciple.
Indeed, their lives were not a picnic.
So, they sat by the fire, ate some food, and waited to hear what Jesus had to say. They did not have to wait long.
Finishing breakfast, Jesus turned to Simon Peter and asked, “Do you truly love me more than these?”
It was a painful question. Peter had once bragged that he loved Jesus more than all the other disciples. Now, he answered in meekness.
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He did not add, “More than these.”
Again, he was asked, “Do you truly love me?” The word “truly” reflects a deep form of love, a love like what God has for the world.
Again, Peter did not claim that high level of love. He just repeated, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” This type of love was small and humble.
Then Jesus changed the question. He used a different word for love. “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
The question hurt Peter. He was being asked if he had even a small and feeble love for Jesus.
No longer bragging, no longer sure of his own strength, now Peter appealed to the omniscience of Jesus.
“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
We can relate to Peter. Too often, our love for the Savior God has been feeble and faltering. There have been times when someone looking in at our life would not have recognized us as a redeemed child of God.
But, like Peter, Jesus has not forgotten us nor forsaken us. Instead, he comes to us in Word and sacrament to assure us that he forgives us. He points to the scars on his hands and feet. He assures us with the inspired words, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
We wait for his plans for us to unfold, as did those disciples by the lake. We look forward to when he will return.
From then on, our lives will indeed be like a picnic.
Lord Jesus, Risen Savior, you know that I love you. I ask that you deal with me in love as you did with Simon Peter. I have nothing to boast of about myself. Instead, I sing, “I boast a Savior slain.” Give me that abiding hope you spoke of, and allow me to share that bright future with you. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.