Do you ever get overwhelmed to the point you just have to get away? It could be physical exhaustion but often times it is when we are mentally or emotionally exhausted. Many people turn to something so familiar that they don't have to think about it. Perhaps they clean the house or do some yard work. For me it was always yard work. There was something about getting outside and getting my hands dirty. My reaction to overwhelming mental or emotional fatigue was always a physical response, to get my body busy and tired. This is what I imagine Peter was doing when he decided to go fishing.
What a roller coaster ride he had been on. One minute he was on top of the world, by Jesus' side, pledging to stand with him no matter what comes their way. Then he was thrown into complete confusion. When the hour had come he was there as he said he would be, to defend the Master. But Jesus didn't want to be defended. Jesus told him to stop, to put the sword away. He was totally confused. What was he suppose to do? He didn't know, so he ran as fast as he could, like the others.
It was in that confusion, not knowing what was happening and what he was suppose to do, that he did the unthinkable. He actually denied knowing Jesus. He turned his back on him instead of standing with him. He made a fool of them all by demonstrating a lack of love and loyalty to Jesus. What despair overwhelmed him. What bitterness gripped his heart. The tears would not stop flowing from his remorse.
Then the news came that he was dead. The Romans had crucified him. The news was like a knife piercing his heart. Somehow he managed to find the others. Somehow they managed to hide away. But they were so afraid. Would they be next? Would a fist come pounding on the door? The fear and despair, confusion and lostness was blinding to heart, mind and spirit.
And then he was there.
Standing right there in front of them, as if nothing had happened. He was different but yet the same. There was no doubt it was him. Peter's head would have been dizzy with confusion. Jesus was alive but not like before. He was more than before. But Peter was still overwhelmed by shame. How could he face Jesus after what he had done?
So what did Peter do to handle all this confusion of emotions? He returned to what was familiar to him which gives us an interesting situation. Peter needed to be restored. He needed forgiveness. So what better opportunity to give Peter what was needed then to do it in the same place where it all began: in a fishing boat, upon the water.
When Jesus called Peter to join him, he had convinced Peter to go back out and try fishing again, after an unsuccessful night of fishing. He told Peter to fish on the other side of the boat. Peter did and caught a huge catch. Then Jesus told him to follow him and he would make him a fisher of men.
Now here they were in a similar situation. Peter did not recognize Jesus and either did the other disciples but they listened when this stranger told them to try the other side. They did and it was a huge catch. It was as these events repeated themselves that Peter recognized Jesus and it was there on that beach that he was restored.
Jesus gave Peter one opportunity to declare his love for every time Peter had denied that love. Along with the restoration Jesus charged Peter with the responsibility to teach what he had been taught. It is one of the most moving parts of the Resurrection event. It speaks to our own need for restoration. It gives us hope that when we are overwhelmed and try to run away that our God will meet us in that place and call us to him. But there is a point to note here.
It is great that our Lord Jesus loves us and meets us in our needs. It is great that he comforts us, strengthens us and sets us back on our feet. It is fantastic that he forgives us when we turn our back on him instead of running to him. It is wonderful that he understands what happens to us when we get overwhelmed. But he does more than this. He also reminds us of our responsibilities, our duties, our calling.
There is more to it than Jesus helping us cope with life and the challenges we face. There is more to it than God wanting us to have joy. God wants us healthy and well spiritually so we can get back to work. We are workers and we are not of much use if we are sitting on the sidelines licking our wounds. Jesus restored Peter because there needed to be repair in that relationship but also so that Peter could take up his responsibility.
Perhaps you have been wounded and Jesus has been there to help you back on your feet but did you understand all of the restoration? Did you hear his call to return to your duties? Did you hear him charge you again with your responsibilities? So you messed up, that doesn't mean you are let off the hook. God's grace is wonderful and with forgiveness comes full restoration. So stop with the fishing already and get back to what God has given you to do.
** read about Peter's restoration in John 21