Remember the setting…
Jesus is alive! After crucifixion, he appeared to the disciples, minus Thomas. Then there’s the interaction with Thomas. After this seven disciples are together: Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John (Zebedee’s sons), and two other unnamed disciples.
Peter says, “I’m going fishing.”
What?! Jesus died! And now He’s alive! And you’re going fishing? Peter was not in a good place. Physically, he was fine. But mentally? spiritually? He wasn’t in a happy place at all. Jesus knew Peter had denied Him. Thrice. Jesus foretold Peter’s denial. After the third denial – after the rooster crowed as prophesied by Jesus Himself – Jesus looked at Peter. Peter knew what that look meant.
Now? Jesus had yet to bring it up.
Why not? The anticipation gnawed at Peter. It was Peter, after all, who was promised the keys to the kingdom after recognizing Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus had told Peter that Peter learned this from God Himself. Peter had been blessed by Christ for this revelation.
Then Peter had blown it big time. Jesus had told him beforehand he would,and Jesus had looked directly at Peter after Peter denied Him the third time.
Gnawing… Ya think? Perhaps that’s too gentle a description.
“I’m going fishing.”
Note: I mean no disrespect or irreverence here. I am empathizing with Peter.
Peter wants some alone time. He feels terrible about denying Christ. He wants to go do something familiar, some mindless task to pass the time. I mean, obviously Jesus isn’t concerned, right? If He was, He would’ve said something. Anything. A rebuke would be better than this; this silence. Especially to a man like Peter who’s motto in life seemed to be, “Don’t just stand there, say something.” Jesus hasn’t said anything yet.
To make things better, Peter’s friends respond, “We will go with you!”
They head over to the Sea of Tiberius and fish all night and catch nothing.
The sky lightens. No fish. Chatterbox friends all atwitter about Jesus’ resurrection. Polite smiles. Nods. Yes, yes, it’s amazing, He’s alive.
Captain Obvious appears on the beach and asks the perfect question, “Hey fellers, caught anything?”
Captain Obvious morphs into Captain Advice: “Why not try fishing on the right side of the boat? I bet you’ll catch some fish over there.”
Pause here a minute. What was Peter doing when Jesus asked Peter to become a disciple?
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. – Mark 1:16-18
Same Simon Peter here, a professional fisherman. (“It is a tradition very current among the ancients, that St. Mark wrote this gospel under the direction of St. Peter, …” Matthew Henry’s Commentary. The Gospel of Mark is very likely Peter’s account.)
Back to Captain Obvious Advice. “Have you fellers considered fishing on the other side of the boat?”
No, that thought never occurred to us.
For whatever reason, they haul in the nets from the left side of the boat. Now, this wasn’t a cruise ship; there’s really not that much distance between the left and right sides of this boat. Why did they do it? Maybe they were bored. Maybe they thought, “What could it hurt?” Maybe they wanted to prove to the helpful gentleman on the shore that they are professionals and demonstrate the fact by hauling up another net filled with only water. Maybe then he’d move on and “help” someone else with their day.
They cast the nets into the waters on the right side of the boat and something tremendous happens. The net is filled with so many fish these seven people cannot haul it in.
Things change rapidly. John tells Peter, “That’s Jesus!”
Peter ignores his buddies struggling with the net. He longs to be close to Jesus. He doesn’t want to be irreverent, so he gets dressed first and then swims one hundred yards to shore. Why? Why leave his buddies in the boat? Why swim with heavier clothes on? Why not just bring the boat to shore and then connect with Jesus?
“Feed My Sheep.”
Jesus had breakfast ready. Jesus and Peter have a conversation over breakfast. I’m not glossing over this conversation lightly, I believe the three questions were not random in content or number. Peter denied Jesus thrice in response to three earlier questions, after all. But I do want to move beyond this conversation.
Why? The spiritual surgery is complete, but Peter is not all better. He’s …
Why would I write such a thing? Because Peter’s very next move is to look towards John and ask Jesus, “What about him, huh?” Your and my response is likely similar: shakes head, “Tsk tsk tsk. Peter, Peter, Peter.” Or as my 14-year old son would say,
Jesus has a remarkable and shocking response: “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” A question and a command. The question is, “What difference does that make to you?” “Why do you care?” “What does it matter?” “It’s none of your business!”
Jesus commands Peter, “You follow me!”
In his commentary on John, R. C. Sproul writes:
“If the Lord gives me one thing, I think everybody should get it, or if you get something I don’t get, I say, ‘What’s the matter with me? Why didn’t I get it?’ The Lord has jobs for each of us to do, and what others do is ultimately none of our business. Each of us must do what God has given him or her to do, and fulfill the mandate of Christ.”
Amen, R. C. Amen.
Has this happened to you? Has someone nodded in your direction and asked, “What about that person?” “Why does she get to enjoy that relationship?” “Who put him in charge?” “Why are they so happy?”
It’s happened to me. It’s unpleasant. It’s envy. It’s a sin. “I’m trying to help my brother / sister walk closer with Christ.” Are you? Are you really? What made you notice the deficit in your brother’s or sister’s walk with Christ? What was your first clue? Was it, as Dr. Sproul wrote, “… [they] get something I don’t get…”?
We rationalize – misusing God’s Word, even – but it’s still a sin.
To Peter, holder of the keys to the kingdom, blessed by Christ, hearing from God Himself; Jesus says, “Don’t worry about John.” Forget about splinters, here are some planks that require your attention. Paul echoes this sentiment in his letter to the church at Rome.
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4
To a church of “fruit-inspecting” “discerners,” Jesus speaks these words, What is that to thee? Follow thou me.
Jesus told Peter, “Stop that.”
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, “Stop that.”
It’s none of your business.