When an explorer feels lost, a compass can restore his sense of direction simply by pointing him to what is called “True North.” After denying Jesus three times, and then watching from afar as Jesus was crucified, Peter was lost. He desperately needed a compass to point him in the right direction.
He just couldn’t shake the memory of that moment when Jesus and his eyes connected after the last denial. It had been burned into his memory. What does he do now? Does it even matter? It seems like he just threw away the best three years of his life, all of them spent with Jesus.
In an effort to find his true north, he did what he had always done before – he went fishing. However, to add insult to injury, Peter came up empty that day. He and his friends had fished for hours with nothing to show for it.
After hours of fishing, the boat was floating within earshot of the beach, and someone standing next to a fire shouted, “Have you caught any fish?” “No,” was their reply. “Throw your nets to the right side of the boat,” the man instructed. With nothing to lose, they complied. And when they did, there were so many fish, they struggled to get them all into the boat!
Wait, what? It was deja vu all over again – for all of them! John said, “It’s the Lord!” And without any concern for their catch, Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore.
That’s a very different response than the one Peter had the first time this happened. Luke recorded that incident. Peter’s reaction then was to tell Jesus to get away from him because he wasn’t worthy to even be in his presence.
This time, however, after spending nearly every waking moment together for the last three years, Peter’s reaction was very different.
Even though he had committed an egregious sin of denying the greatest friend he’d ever known, Peter remembered watching Jesus restore people who had sinned, over and over again. This time he had hope that Jesus would offer him good news that would erase the bad that he’d been living with ever since the rooster crowed that day in the courtyard.
After a long embrace between these two friends, Jesus proceeded to ask him three times, “Do you love me Peter?” However, this time, Peter didn’t lose heart. Each time, Peter responded, “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” And each time, Jesus reminded Peter of the vision that he had announced to him three years earlier on the boat.
Remember, when he told Peter, “Don’t be afraid. I’m going to make you a fisher of men”? Well now, three years and three denials later, and once again coming face to face with his badness, Peter hears Jesus’ words, “Feed my lambs. Take care of my sheep. Feed my lambs.” In other words, “I trained you to be a fisher of men, and I still believe in your ability to do that.”
Jesus’ response to us as repeat offenders is to point us to the good news he sees in us. He continues to call us to the vision that he has for our lives. Jesus moves Peter from a place of wallowing in his grief, to being restored to fulfill his calling!
This is how Jesus is with all of us. Time and time again, Jesus says, “In my eyes your past does not define you. Open the eyes of your heart to see in yourself what I see in you!”
Jesus continues to speak words of hope and life to you and I even in the aftermath of our badness. Would you stop today, and instead of focusing on your badness, listen to the words of hope Jesus is speaking to you? They are words that will point you to your true north!