“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” (John 21:4-7, NIV).
If you really read this story, you realize that something doesn't make sense, but the very act reveals a very human attempt to hide from pain. Peter has taken off his outer clothing to work on the boat, but when the nets are suddenly full, Peter wraps his outer garment around himself, and jumps into the water. Who puts back on clothing to jump into the water to help bring in fish? Someone who suddenly realizes that the Master he has denied is present, and does not want to be seen. He is not thinking rationally because there is no where to hide, and the pain of his failure has consumed his heart. He has failed His Master, the one person he has followed and loved with all his being. Peter really knows he can't hide from the Lord, but the sudden presence of His Master has slapped him in the face.
Isn't this such a typical picture of the human heart? We fail and try to hide because we believe it is easier to hide than face our failure. But we cannot escape it. We are consumed with our failure and the pain we have brought upon the One we love. Knowing that our failure is too much to bear, we “put on our outer garment”. Futilely we attempt to hide not only from what we have done, but from the One we have failed.
Peter doesn't allow Peter to stay consumed by His failure. He brings him to a coal fire where he is fixing breakfast, and asks Peter point blank if he loves Him. Peter had denied Christ three times at a coal fire, and it is at this coal fire Peter realizes, after being asked three times if he loves Jesus, that he is really forgiven. “Don't dwell on your failure, Peter. Three times you denied me, and three times I have asked if you love me. Each time you have said, 'you know I love you, Lord', you have faced your failure. Each time you have given more of it to me. It is no more. So love me. Feed my sheep. Love with the forgiveness I have given you.”
This is Christ's message for each one of us. “Don't try to hide. Face your failure. Allow me to lovingly bring you back to your point of denial... your own coal fire...and allow me to heal your heart. Your failure was never meant to drive you from me, but to bring you to me. Accept my forgiveness, and share my love which sets you free. Share it. Don't keep it to yourself. Remember the full net the day you jumped into the water to hide...the day I forgave you? My love, mercy, and grace is not for you alone. I died for those in the net. My forgiveness is for the world. I died so no one else need hide again.”