Thinking back, what was your most favorite vacation ever? I have two vacations that cause me to smile whenever I think back on them. I will share them in chronological order and not by the best being first. Both were equally fun and enjoyable. First, in the 1990s we had a particularly cold and snowy winter, so I telephoned a friend in Boston, to see if she would take a vacation with me to a warm and sunny place. It turned out that she and another friend were able to join me on a trip to Cozumel, Mexico. We had a blast, eating authentic Mexican food (the guacamole was the best I ever tasted), swimming in the warm aqua-colored ocean (I used an inner-tube) with large silver fish nipping at our toes, and walking on the soft white sandy beaches. The people were friendly and the iguanas were cool. I remember riding piggy-back on a moped with my friend, and eating barracuda at a fancy restaurant on the beach (I ate it before it ate me!). It was pretty tasty.
The second vacation which makes me smile when I think back on it was in 2011, when my sister and I went to visit our youngest sister in Oregon. We had a great time exploring the magnificent Oregon coast, visiting stunningly beautiful vineyards and wineries, eating and drinking Oregon cuisine, visiting historic lighthouses and breathtaking waterfalls, staying at a hotel on the beach and eating, visiting funky little shops (Northampton-ish) and eating. For one breakfast, I ate Pacific salmon hash and eggs and for another breakfast I had deep-fried oysters with eggs and hash-brown potatoes, and, of course, we drank a lot of coffee. It seemed like there was a coffee “hut” around every corner. Also, there was the “Yankee Fan Encounter” which I don’t have time to get into right now. Both vacations had their own unique charm and were very relaxing, refreshing and lots of fun.
I wonder how Jesus’ disciple Peter ranked his last fishing trip with seven of his friends, who were also disciples of Jesus. During their last fishing trip together, Jesus was waiting for them on the beach, cooking fish on a fire of burning coals, and called out to them to cast their fishing net on the right side of the boat and they caught 153 fish (See John 21:1-13). It is interesting to me that Thomas was one of the disciples who went on the fishing trip with Peter. Thomas was not grieving or doubting Jesus anymore. Jesus met Thomas right where he needed to be met, when He appeared a second time to the disciples. Jesus knew that all He had to say to Thomas was, “Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it in My side. Stop doubting and believe” (John 20:27b). Thomas “got it” after that. He did not want to be alone anymore. He learned how important it was to be in fellowship with other believers. Perhaps he remembered Jesus saying, “For where two or three come together in My Name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20). Thomas wanted to be with the other disciples. He did not want to miss another visit from his Risen Lord and God (See John 20:28).
Jesus also met Peter right where he needed to be met. I do not know if Peter had what we now call Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder, but Jesus knew He needed to help Peter to focus on being a “fisher of men” (See Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17) and not just fish. This is why, I believe, Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love Me more than these?” (John 21:15b). He might have been pointing to the fish, his friends, the beautiful lake and its serenity. Whatever “these” were, Jesus wanted Peter to love Him above all else. Jesus asked Peter three more times, “Do you love Me?” because loving Jesus above all else was what it was going to take to “Feed [Jesus’] lambs”, to “Take care of [Jesus’] sheep”, and to “Feed [Jesus’] sheep” (See John 21:15b-17). Jesus wanted to use Peter to build His Church.
It is important to note that Jesus did not scold Peter for going fishing. Jesus knew Peter needed time away from everything. It was very difficult for him to wrap his brain around all that happened in the past few weeks. Peter reminds me of what Peppermint Patty said in, “Happy Thanksgiving Charlie Brown”. When Peppermint Patty, who has a crush on Charlie Brown, invites herself and other friends over to “Chuck’s” for Thanksgiving Dinner, Snoopy and Woodstock frantically prepare their version of a Thanksgiving meal: buttered toast, popcorn and pretzels and candy. Peppermint Patty, who Charlie Brown describes as “a great baseball player”, is disgusted with the “Thanksgiving presentation” and says that she wanted a real Thanksgiving dinner, with a turkey and all the fixings. Charlie Brown is mortified and goes away. When a friend reminds Peppermint Patty that she was the one who invited herself and all her friends to Chuck‘s house, she recognizes the error in her ways and says, “Golly, why can’t I act right outside of a baseball field?” She asks her friend to smooth things over with Chuck and they all end up going to Charlie Brown’s grandparents for Thanksgiving dinner. When they leave, Snoopy and Woodstock have their own turkey dinner with all the fixings. (What‘s up with that?!). In the same way Peppermint Patty felt inadequate with social graces and felt more comfortable playing baseball, Peter was overwhelmed with all that was going on and just wanted to go fishing. In the same way Charlie Brown felt that he couldn’t do anything right, Peter felt that he had disappointed Jesus with his denying that he knew Him there times. Jesus wanted Peter to know that when the Father looked at Peter, He no longer saw his sin, but only Christ’s righteousness (See Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 2:4-10; Colossians 3:3-4).
Then, Jesus tells Peter something very difficult to hear. Jesus tells Peter that he will die a martyr’s death (See John 21:18-19). Why didn’t Peter run for the hills? Why didn’t he say to Jesus, “No way! Get someone else to start Your Church! I like fishing. That’s what I do best.”? I believe Peter didn’t run away because he did love Jesus above all else. He believed Jesus when he heard Him say, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25b-26a). Peter also believed Jesus when He said, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me” (John 12:”25-26). Finally, when Peter was about to be executed, some say he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Savior died and asked to be crucified up-side-down. But, I believe Peter had the same attitude about death as His Savior. With his years of serving His Savior and King, Peter‘s eyes became forever fixed on Jesus. In the same way Peter continually looked to Jesus as his strength and hope and joy, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Peter also believed in a quote in one of Paul’s Letters: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9b, from Isaiah 64:4).
I believe that Peter’s last fishing trip with his friends changed all of their lives forever because Jesus was about to use them to change the world! But, how exactly did Jesus turn this motley crew of disciples into “Christ’s ambassadors”, giving them “the ministry of reconciliation…reconciling the world to [God] in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them…[and] committed to [them] the message of reconciliation” (See II Corinthians 5:18-20)? We will explore this question next time.
May the Peace of the Lord Jesus Christ Be With You and With Your Spririt.