So Peter & Jesus end where they began – as Jesus says to Peter ‘follow me’.
Which might get us wondering, when does discipleship start?
You see, Luke’s gospel also contains this story of the miraculous catch of fish – but where John tells us this story here, as part of the resurrection appearances of Jesus, Luke has it right at the beginning of the gospel, when Jesus first calls the fishermen to follow.
So when does Peter become a disciple – when he first starts to follow the earthly Jesus, without even knowing who he is, or here as he follows the resurrected Jesus, who he knows is “the Lord”?
The answer, of course, is both. Peter has to make a decision to start to follow Jesus, but this is a decision he will have to keep making, everyday of his life, especially when persecution comes.
And it’s not as simple as Peter seeing the risen Jesus and deciding, again, to follow Jesus. First there’s the very real issue of Peter’s denial of Jesus.
At the last supper, Peter has sworn undying discipleship, and Jesus had warned him that before cock-crow that night h Peter would deny Jesus three times. When Jesus was arrested in the garden and taken to the high priest to answer charges against him, Peter had followed, but when he was challenged he swore three times that he did not know him.
Then Luke’s gospel records the rather chilling words “then the Lord turned and looked at Peter, and he went out and wept, bitterly”.
What sort of disciple is Peter? He had promised to follow Jesus, but failed. He had sworn he would not deny Jesus, but he had done just that. He had been slow to believe the report of the women that Jesus was risen form the dead – as he had said that he would.
Peter is hardly top-grade disciple material. And when Jesus makes him say three times ‘Yes, lord, I love you’, Peter gets hurt ‘Lord you know everything, you know that I love you!’. He is , yet again, slow to understand that Jesus is forgiving him by helping Peter to declare his love three times to help him to move on from denying Jesus three times.
As a disciple, Peter is unreliable, he makes mistakes, he’s too quick to promise to follow but finds it hard to actually do it.
Peter is just like us.
And the good news, the best news, is that Jesus is ready to forgive Peter, and make him able to start again.
Yes, he has already said he will follow Jesus, way back when they first met on the shores of Lake Galilee, but Jesus gives him a chance to respond to the call to follow yet again, as a new start, as a new act of commitment to follow Jesus.
And that’s what we’re offered today too.
A new start. The food of our pilgrimage – this bread and wine, signs of our readiness to promise to follow Jesus today.. and tomorrow.. and each new day.
And a sign of God’s promise to give us a fresh start each day, as Jesus gives Peter the forgiveness he needs to leave his mistakes behind.
So we may, like Saul, be able to pinpoint the exact moment when we first encountered Jesus, or we may not. But we can like Paul & like Peter, leave our old selves behind and promise to follow Jesus.
He will feed and strengthen us for the journey and will give us all the love and forgiveness we need to make it possible.
Thanks be to God