Today’s Reading: John 21
We know that Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in 1879. Back then they didn’t have mass production, so each bulb had to be created separately. He and his colleagues worked twenty-four painstaking and meticulous hours straight to put just one together. The story goes that when Edison was finished with that light bulb, he gave it to a young boy to deliver up the stairs to another part of Edison’s workshop. The boy nervously carried it— step by step cautiously watching his hands, terrified of dropping this treasure. But when he got to the top of the stairs, the poor boy dropped it.
It took the team of men another twenty-four hours to create the second light bulb. Tired and ready for a break, Edison needed it carried up the stairs. Guess who he asked to deliver it? He gave it to the same young boy who dropped the first one. This time he made it to the top.
Jesus had a light bulb and Jesus had a clumsy kid. The light bulb would be the church and the kid’s name was Peter.
Peter’s stair drop? Peter denied Jesus three times at Jesus’ most critical moment of his life. And after the resurrection, Jesus found Peter to give him the light bulb—right after his failure. That’s where we land in today’s reading.
God is amazing—not only because He forgives us after failure, but also because God trusts us after failure. As Psalm 130:3-4 (MSG) says, “If you, GOD, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.”
In John 21, Peter and Jesus met the first time after Peter dropped the light bulb. And Jesus wanted to see where Peter was in his failure. In other words, He was looking at Peter with an eye toward what Abraham Lincoln said: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Jesus was making sure Peter was not content.
Failure is part of life, everyone experiences it. Getting up from failure, though? Not everyone does. Yet failure isn’t final until you quit. Let’s look in on the scene:
After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. (John 21:1-3)
The craziest phrase is in the first verse: After these things. What things? The things in John 20.
“After these things . . .” (verse 1) and “Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing . . .’” (verse 3). That’s your response, Peter, to the resurrection and to what you just saw?
Remember what Peter saw:
• An empty tomb, which he entered.
• Mary overcome with emotion and clinging to Jesus.
• Jesus walking through walls.
• Being commissioned to tell the whole world.
• Doubting Thomas becoming believing Thomas
Shouldn’t the next phrase after 21:1’s “After these things” be something like:
• Peter preached.
• Peter went to church.
• Peter worshiped.
You would think, but nope. Peter saw the resurrected Jesus and got his tackle box. He was told he would be a “fisher of men,” but he went back to being a “fisher of fish.” Why? Because Peter forgot. The emotions, the feelings of God, fear, and excitement wore off.
To Peter, the event of the resurrection was done and now it was Monday. He was thinking, It was a good run. We did the Jesus thing for three years and now it’s time to get back to normal life.
After September 11, 2001, many churches were full, but soon the fear and the horror of it all wore off and life went on and it was back to fishing. Peter was part of an event, but during that event he had no encounter with Jesus personally.
Events don’t change us. A personal encounter with Jesus changes us. Peter experienced a resurrection event but never had a resurrection encounter.
To say “I’m going fishing” was a huge statement. Fishing to us is a hobby. Fishing to Peter was his old way of life. “I’m going fishing” were strong words for Peter.
Peter was very persuasive, for seven of the eleven went with him—and three of those were not even fishermen. Life does go on if it’s an event. But life can never be the same if the resurrection is an encounter. Here comes the encounter for Peter:
When the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are you?” Knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:4-15)
After breakfast, Peter had an encounter. Because forgiveness happens in encounters not in events. As pastor Robert Schuller said: “Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure. It just means you haven’t succeeded yet.”
Peter was about to get the light bulb again.
Your failure is not final. God wants to get that light bulb in your hands again.