Peter was a fisherman. He had done it all his life, even when he was a disciple of John the Baptist. Then, one day, Jesus walked by. “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” And Peter followed him. He left the nets behind and followed Jesus for more than three years, throughout Galilee, to Jerusalem, to Gethsemane, and to the Sanhedrin. There, it all ended.
“I swear to you, I never knew this man.”
With those words, Peter denied the Lord he had sworn to serve. And even when the most glorious miracle of history occurred, even when Jesus was raised from the dead, even when Jesus appeared to the disciples, Peter could not forget the fact that he had failed.
And so, he told the other disciples, “I’m going fishing.” In John 21:3, Peter was not announcing that he was taking a fly-fishing vacation. He was giving up and returning to the life he had left to follow Jesus. He had failed Jesus and he was through. Even though Jesus was alive, he knew his failure and he knew that Jesus knew it as well. He was packing it in.
Ever felt that way? It happens to me often, usually on a Monday morning. When I fail, or when the pressures of life pile up, or trials and opposition come, I have the impulse to throw it all in, resign my job, and go fishing. Metaphorically, at least. Actual fishing is not a temptation to me.
I bet sometimes you feel like giving up. It may be because of your own failure, or because of the hurtful actions of someone else. You gave your best, and no one recognized it. You poured yourself into ministry, but nothing came from it. The pressures of life have snowballed to the point you just can’t take it anymore. Like Peter, and me, you want to go fishing.
But Jesus won’t let that happen. He appeared to Peter by the Sea of Tiberias. He took Peter back to where it all began. He renewed the miracle of his provision. “Cast your net on the other side of the boat.” Jesus did it all over again. He took Peter right back to beginning, and renewed his faith and the wonder of God’s power. That’s where healing begins with us. We must return to the presence of the Lord and renew our minds and hearts in him. The good news is that Jesus always begins the process of healing.
Jesus did not ignore Peter’s failure, or sweep it under the rug. He made him face it. Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three times Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” Jesus renews us by making us deal with the sin and failure that drew us away from him. When we repent, the blood of Christ covers our sin and brings us renewal.
Then, Jesus gave his command to Peter. “Feed my sheep.” God renewed Peter by giving him an assignment. Take care of God’s sheep. Jesus renewed Peter, then sent him out to serve. The fallen soldier was back on the front lines.
Jesus will never let you give up. As his child, he won’t let you go fishing. He will come to you, inviting you back into his presence. He will help you find forgiveness for your failure, and will restore you to a life of fruitful service.
No, my friend, it is not time to go fishing.