Frustrated. Bone-tired. Sweaty. Snappish. The seven bare-chested men, cast their net overboard time and again. Only to draw it up empty. Nothing. Not one fish! As the sun slipped upwards, they decided to call it quits. Enough was enough.
Then a stranger called to them from the shore, "Children, do you have any fish?"
With one voice, they answered, "No!" They began to haul in their net. Defeated.
"Cast the net on the right side of the boat and you will find some," yelled the stranger.
The seven looked at one another wearily. The right side? What? Why? Who was this man to tell them what to do anyway?
But they shrugged and did as He suggested. What could it hurt? Over the right side of the boat went the net. It sank into the depths...and then they got the shock of their lives. The net quickly filled with fish. It started to slip from their hands as the weight dragged it downwards. They struggled. They yelled at one another to hang on.
With his hands full, his back straining, John knew instinctively: this was a miracle, and only one Person could work such a miracle...especially involving fish!
"It is the Lord!" he exclaimed excitedly.
Peter's head snapped up. Without hesitation, he released his hold, grabbed his garment and jumped overboard. Thankfully the water was relatively shallow since they were only about 100 yards offshore. But still the going was cumbersome. No matter. Peter felt like he was walking on water. Within minutes, he was enfolded in the arms of His beloved Jesus. Laughing. Kissing Him on the cheek. Crying. Wet hugs met a warm heart.
The other six soon joined them. Exhausted, but exuberant. They gathered around Jesus, happy to see Him yet again. This was the second time He'd appeared to them since that awful, awful event. They couldn't get enough of Him.
Jesus finally pointed to a fire nearby and invited the men to bring some of their catch and cook it. Peter jumped back onboard and wrestled some fish out of the net. Later, they would discover they had caught 153 fish. All uncharacteristically large! Yet, surprisingly, the net had held. It hadn't torn at all. Miraculous!
"Come and have breakfast," Jesus beckoned, taking a seat on the ground.
The seven arranged themselves around the fire and cooked their fish. All the while, they kept their eyes on the Lord. They didn't want to take their eyes off of Him, afraid that He might disappear again. They were so overjoyed that He was really, really here! Sitting on the shoreline with them, just like He'd done so many times before.
It was wonderful to be back fellowshipping with Him, for they knew that after the past weeks' events, after how they'd treated this dear, dear Friend, that they didn't deserve this. They didn't deserve Him!
That awful event was still fresh in their minds and their hearts.
Nine days earlier they'd been together, all 12 of them, in a garden atop Mount Olivet, a favorite spot of Jesus' whenever they were in Jerusalem. They'd just eaten a wonderful meal, reclining alongside Jesus, talking and eating late into the night. Their stomachs had been heavy, satisfied.
Jesus had slipped off alone to pray. The disciples had settled comfortably beneath the olive trees and nodded off.
Twice Jesus had come back to find them sound asleep. Twice He'd reprimanded them, "Could you not watch with Me one hour? Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation."
As He had been speaking the second time, a crowd had approached, bearing torches, swords and clubs. The disciples had stumbled to their feet. Dazed. Bewildered. Leading the pack had been Judas. Their treasurer. Clutching a small bag in his hand.
As they watched, still not able to take it all in yet, Judas approached Jesus and leaned in, greeting Him with a customary kiss.
Jesus replied calmly, quietly, "Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?"
Betray! The disciples glanced at one another, recognition dawning on their faces. Jesus' cryptic warning making sense now, "Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me." It had been Judas Jesus was talking about. How dare he!
Then Peter — impulsive as ever — drew out his sword and lopped off the ear of Malchus, a slave. "No more of this!" Jesus said. He then reached out and repaired Malchus' ear. Perfectly.
The guards then grabbed their Friend, bound Him like a common criminal, and escorted Him away. The scene was too much to take in. A nightmare. Soldiers. Swords. Kisses. Ears. Healing. Ropes. Chaos. What was happening?
Frightened out of their minds, 10 of the 12 fled into the night. Committing their own betrayal of Jesus.
Only Peter and John had remained, rooted to the spot. But then they'd the presence of mind to follow, at a safe distance, until the entourage entered Annas' house and disappeared from sight. John, being an acquaintance of Caiaphas the high priest, had gone straight in while Peter had hung back, hiding outside the doorway. Waiting. Watching. Heart pounding. What was happening? Why was Jesus being arrested? He hadn't done anything. This was insanity! Where was John!
Soon John came back and spoke to the doorkeeper who then motioned Peter in. He entered the courtyard and sat down with the guards. He could see Jesus a short distance away, surrounded by the chief priest and the whole council. He could hear people falsely accusing Jesus. But one by one they were dismissed. Then two men stepped forward and explained what they had heard Jesus say: "This man said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days'."
Jesus didn't deny it.
"Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God," the high priest demanded.
Peter held his breath.
"You have said so," Jesus replied. "But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."
The high priest raged. He ripped Jesus' robe. "Blasphemy! What is your judgment?"
"He deserves death," the council cried. And they began to spit, strike and slap Jesus.
Peter watched horrified from where he sat. Then his attention was diverted by a servant girl. "You also were with Jesus the Galilean," she said.
"I do not know what you mean," Peter stammered.
Another servant girl agreed.
"I do not know the man."
Yet a third person said, "Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you."
Swearing and cursing, Peter screamed, "I do not know the man!"
Somewhere a rooster crowed.
Peter wilted. Jesus' earlier prediction —that he would deny Him three times before a rooster crowed — had come true. Peter ran from the courtyard, weeping bitterly.
The next days had been a nightmarish blur for Peter and John. They'd heard that Judas had hanged himself. They'd listened for any news about their Jesus, hearing that He had endured a sham of a trial before Pilate the governor. They had listened in disbelief as the people had cried "Crucify Him" and then witnessed the murderer Barabbas being released in exchange for their Master, Rabbi and Friend.
They had then stood silently, helplessly along the narrow stone road as Jesus had labored wearily under the weight of a cross. Although He'd been given help by a man from Cyrene, the going had been excruciating, for He clearly had been beaten. A wreath of thorns had encircled His head. Droplets of blood and sweat had poured down His body as He struggled onward.
But the worst was yet to come.
The lots being cast. The mocking. The jeering. The insulting plaque above His head. The spear thrust into His side. The darkness. His final cry, "It is finished."
His death. His burial.
It had all been too, too much.
But here He was now. Nine days later. Whole. Healed. Wonderful.
He had risen. Just like He said.
And now He had just called to them from the shore. Just like He had done three years earlier. Inviting them to follow Him. Now—today — to fellowship with Him.
No reprimands. No finger-wagging. No, "How could you betray Me like that? Why did you desert Me?"
No. None of that.
Here they were now. Reunited. Restored. Redeemed. Recommissioned: "Go, feed My sheep."
What had happened earlier, in the past, was completely forgotten, entirely forgiven.