“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, 'Friends, haven’t you any fish?' 'No,' they answered. He said, 'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.' When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, 'It is the Lord!' As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, 'It is the Lord,' he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
“Jesus said to them, 'Bring some of the fish you have just caught.' So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, 'Who are you?' They knew it was the Lord. 'Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:4-14).
Peter is fishing with other disciples. Perhaps his mind is plagued by his denial of His Savior. Peter cannot forget his sin. He is devastated by His failure. He has denied his Lord. After their incredible catch, John recognizes this man on the shore as the Lord. Peter has been working partly clothed on the boat. Now suddenly he wraps himself in his outer garment, and jumps in the water to help bring in the fish. I am not well-versed in the customs of that day and bringing in fish. But I find it strange that he puts on his outer garment to jump into the water. However, he has heard John call Jesus, “Lord”, and he realizes that this is the Lord he denied knowing three times. With the sudden awareness of His Savior's presence, Peter is physically, emotionally, and spiritually stripped before Him. Grabbing his outer garment he covers himself and jumps into the water to help gather in the fish. He is not only physically stripped. He is spiritually stripped by his failure, and with His broken heart, he is emotionally stripped. But there is nowhere to hide from the Savior on the shore. He finally climbs back into the boat.
Peter does not know what is about to happen, but he feels unready to face the Lord. He does not know that he is about to be made new in his heart and mind‒so that he can forgive himself as the Lord has forgiven him. This is the third time the Lord has appeared to the disciples. And remember that Peter denied he knew Jesus three times. The scene for forgiveness is set.
“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.' Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.' The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' Jesus said, “Feed my sheep'” (John 21:15-17).
There on the seashore where Jesus has cooked their breakfast, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. Picture Jesus and Peter sitting around the fire coal fire. The others must have left, because this was a time for Peter and Jesus. Jesus asks him three times, and Peter says he loves Jesus three times. Jesus tells him three times to feed his sheep‒to reach others in His name. He tells Peter his focus is in the wrong place, and his mind is in the wrong place. Peter is thinking of his failure instead of his mission.
Jesus lovingly takes Peter back to the point of his three-fold denial by a coal fire, and tells him it doesn’t matter now. It is no mistake that Peter and Jesus are by a coal fire at this moment. Peter surely remembers the coal fire where he denied Jesus. But Jesus is saying “forgive yourself as I have forgiven you. The past is over. Peter, if you love me, move on to feed the sheep. Don’t allow your past failure to stop you.”
Just as Peter, we make foolish attempts to hide. We try to cover ourselves, but Jesus knows. We can't hide our failure from Jesus. He knows what they are, and He doesn't want them to define our lives. Jesus longs to take each one of us the point of our denial—of our failure, and say “you are healed because I am resurrected. Move on in me.”