That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. – John 21:7-8
The dawn brought a new day and much more for the seven followers of Jesus who had just finished a long, disappointing night fishing. The voice of a stranger met them with the early light with an inquiry about their success. When they told him that they had caught nothing, he instructed them to cast the net on the other side of the boat. As the men obeyed and found their nets full of fish, John exclaimed, “It is the Lord!”
Had the evangelist suddenly been able to see the figure on the shoreline clearly? It is far more likely that John recognized the work of the Lord, recognized that this amazing catch of fish was not a natural but rather a supernatural phenomenon. It is still true that we see our risen Lord best by recognizing his gracious and abundant blessings in our lives.
Peter responded to John’s pronouncement by acting impatiently. He recognized that Jesus had returned for them, had come to them, even from death, so he jumped into the sea and swam the remaining distance that separated them. But before he did so, John tells us that that Peter put on his clothes. This small detail runs against most experience, in which people take off their clothes before jumping into the water. Why would Peter defy common practice and fully clothe himself before going for a swim? Perhaps he felt he needed to be covered in order to come into the nearer presence of the Lord. Not unlike the account of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3 who covered themselves and hid from God after their sin, perhaps Peter felt he too needed to be covered. It is a natural response to our sinfulness and shortcoming to seek to hide ourselves and our sins from God.
What Peter came to realize, and what we all come to know, is that the Lord responds to our sinfulness with grace, not judgment. Peter’s sins were forgiven long before he arrived at the shore. There was no need for hiding, just an invitation to celebrate life in its fullness and abundance.
Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to me with grace and forgiveness to offer me abundant life in your kingdom. Amen.
a Bible Study devotional by Gorman Houston