This post was birthed after reading from Don Merritt’s most excellent blog, The Life Project. The specific post is here. I highly recommend it.
Jesus first approaches Peter by calling out to him after Peter has experienced a night of fruitless fishing; He instructs Peter to put his net in the water again. Peter is rewarded with an overwhelming number of fish, so much that the net is breaking. Peter’s fearful response to Jesus is understandable:
‘When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”’ Luke 5:8
I had forgotten Peter’s initial response to Jesus.
This verse prompted me to reread Peter’s response in his last physical encounter with Jesus. John 21 records Jesus post-resurrection appearance to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. In this text, Jesus calls out to Peter after another night of fruitless fishing. When Peter realizes it is Jesus, his reaction is quite different this time:
‘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 21:7
This is a quite different version of Peter! His desire to be near Jesus prompts him to jump out of a boat. What has happened to Peter between the first and last encounter? Jesus’ perfect love has transformed Peter.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18
Our hearts are constantly telling us the truth about ourselves, even when we don’t want to hear. It is likely one of the reasons we have so many gadgets and things and people and activities around us… to drown out the fearful cries of our hearts. At least that’s how it is for me.
Yet Jesus’ compassion for our hearts is more than we have for ourselves. Where I expected to be condemned (again) for my rebellion, Jesus understood, had compassion for me, and forgave me. He looked into my heart and saw the brokenness, and the reasons why my heart had hardened. He embraced me in perfect love, and that hardness was broken. My heart, I found, was safe with Jesus. Personal encounters with Jesus always bring joy and healing, never fear.
I believe this is one of the reasons why we hear about having a “personal relationship with Jesus”. In a one-on-one relationship, I can know that God loves me. Perhaps the most spectacular thing is that Jesus has the same compassion for all people. It is God’s desire that all people would have a relationship with Him.
We have been through a seemingly endless season of discord, discontent, finger-pointing, condemnation and judgment. But we can find rest in the One that understands us completely, forgives our selfishness and fear… and loves us perfectly.