One of my favorite chapters from the New Testament is found in the last chapter of John, chapter 21.
This section contains two very powerful stories of Jesus' ministry after he rose from the dead. It shows what the power of unconditional love can do for sinners. A question many people ask is, "Could God love a sinner like me?" These stories powerfully illustrate what God's love is capable of doing for sinners.
But first we have to go back to very early on the morning of Good Friday. Perhaps is 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. From the courtyard of the high priest's home, Peter is observing the Jewish authorities question Jesus. And Peter does what he never thought he would ever do, he denies that he knows Jesus. Motivated by self-interset, fear and panicking at the thought of being treated the same way Jesus was being treated, he calls curses down upon himself and swears he doesn't know the man.
Then the rooster crows, Jesus looks at him, and Peter's heart breaks.
Fast forward to the weeks following the resurrection. Jesus has now appeared to his disciples, including a special appearance to Peter (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8), several times. John 21 records a very special appearance. The disciples had returned to Galilee according to Jesus' directions. What's there to do while they wait around? Why not do what they did before Jesus called them and go fishing? So that's what they do.
But wouldn't you know it, they get skunked! Not a fish night long. If this sounds familiar, you're right. Peter and his fishing buddies had been skunked once before in Luke 5. And just like then, this would be a day of fishing they wouldn't forget. Just as they are giving up, Jesus appears on the shore (but they don't recognize him) and he asks if they've caught anything. When he finds out they haven't, he tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Sure enough, a huge catch of fish (just like in Luke 5).
The reaction this time is quite different than Luke 5. In Luke 5, Simon Peter got on his knees and begged Jesus to go away because he was a sinful man. This time, Peter jumps off the boat and swims to shore! (That's so Peter, by the way!) This repeated miracle of Jesus confirmed that Jesus desired a relationship with them. I gotta think Jesus was chuckling to himself at the thought of what was going to happen when he repeated this miracle. Was there a twinkle in his eye when he told them to throw the net off the right side? He probably couldn't wait to see their reaction. In a way, this is like when a father teases his child just to get a rise out of them and see them smile.
Love made all the difference. This was their good friend Jesus. The one they thought was dead, but was very much alive. The one who had said so many important things to them. The one who meant so much to them. And because he was alive, because he loved them and they loved him, they wanted to be with him. So, go ahead Peter, swim to shore, there's no reason to be afraid of Jesus. You are forgiven. Your denial is forgiven.
Maybe you can relate, too? Jesus' victory at Easter means victory over sin. Could a sinner like you be forgiven, in spite of the horrible things you've done and thought? Love makes all the difference, doesn't it? Your Savior loved you, died for you, and rose again for you. Your sins have been destroyed. You are forgiven. And Jesus wants to be with you forever.
That's Easter love.
Next week we'll take a look at the second half of this very powerful chapter of John 21.
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