Have you ever experienced a déjà vu moment? That’s the strange feeling that you get when you’re in a situation that feels like you’ve been in the exact same situation before. In John 21, we see several of these kinds of moments. Did you recognize them when you were reading this passage? If not, take a moment and read it again looking for these times and then come back to this conversation. I’ll point out just a few of these circumstance similarities here.
First of all, you see Peter and the boys having some free time and deciding to go back to what they know and love, fishing. As a fisherman myself, I find it humorous each time the Scriptures mention Peter fishing he never seems to catch anything without Jesus’ help. I’m sure he could tell a mean fish story though! Speaking of Jesus, he appears on the shore and asks them if they’ve caught any fish. They don’t recognize him and respond no to his question. He then tells them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. When they did, the nets couldn’t contain their catch. Sound familiar? You guessed it. When Jesus first called Peter to follow him, Jesus told him to try one more time after fishing all night and sure enough he caught a boat full.
In verse seven, the disciples realize it is Jesus standing on the shore. What does Peter do? He jumps in the water to get to Jesus as quickly as possible. Remember another time when Jesus was walking on the water in the middle of the storm and the disciples thought he was a ghost? Peter said that he would get out of the boat and walk on the water if Jesus would tell him to come. Of course, Jesus did tell him to come and you know the rest of the story. Peter gives me hope because it seems like to me that he didn’t always think things through clearly before saying or doing them.
When the disciples arrive at the shore, Jesus has a breakfast of bread and fish ready for them. Where did they come from? We aren’t told here but I’m certain that the disciples’ minds went back to two occasions when Jesus took a few fish and loaves and miraculously fed the multitudes with it. Don’t you agree?
Back to our story, John explains this is the third time since Jesus’ resurrection that he had appeared to these disciples. I wonder if Peter felt a little nervous every time Jesus appeared. He had to imagine that there would be something said eventually about the fact that he denied Jesus three times on the night of his arrest. Just before his denial, Jesus predicted that Peter would do that very thing and of course Peter vehemently disagreed with Jesus. “I will die with you before I deny you,” he said.
Now, Peter’s worst fears are realized when after breakfast Jesus begins to address him personally. You see God had great things in store for Peter. His purpose for him was huge but he had one fatal flaw…pride! Peter really seemed to believe that he could do some things without divine intervention. That he was strong enough to resist any temptation. He even pushed back when Jesus warned him about his denial. Before we’re too quick to judge Peter we need to evaluate our own lives. What would we have done or said? Would we have fared any better than him? In Jesus’ masterful way, He restores Peter by asking him one question three times, “Do you love me?” Peter responds cautiously each time growing more distraught at the question. His last response is telling, “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus’ prescription was for Peter to show his love for Christ by lovingly caring for his sheep. He was to no longer think of himself first, but to think of others.
The final déjà vu moment I want to point out is the way Jesus ends the conversation with Peter. He simply says, “Follow me.” I know you remember that phrase from the first encounter Peter had with Jesus. These words were like bookends for Peter and he certainly did follow Jesus. He would even go as far as to give his life for Christ’ sake as Jesus now prepares him the second time for his martyrdom. You see what I find most amazing about being a Christian is not that we are perfect from the beginning or that we never get it wrong. The fact of the matter is that I’ve been much more like Peter in my life than like Christ. But, every time I stumble or fall, the goodness of God brings me to a place of repentance and by the grace of God I get back up again and continue to follow Jesus. I want to encourage you to do the same!