This past week I was at Beach Camp with the Student ministry from The Austin Stone. To be honest I am usually pretty skeptical of Church camps and often wonder, is this really transformative for these kids? Is this a good use of resources and time and effort, and on and on and on my mind goes. But after spending a week with the students at The Austin Stone, the answer to that question is a resounding "yes". This camp experience was very transformative for the kids at our church and for me as well. During a time of worship and teaching near the end of the week pastor Matt Chewning preached on the story of Peter. I am going to share a short version of the sermon with you because it is powerful!
The story of Peter easily resonates with me because he's constantly confessing his devotion to Jesus and in the same instant questioning and doubting Jesus! (Matthew 16:13-24). Peter witnesses with his own eyes the Savior of the world! Peter sees Jesus transfigured on a mountain top! It says in Matthew:
"And He was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light." (Matthew 17:2)
The God of the universe basically spoke from a cloud and said: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 17:5), and Peter witnessed the whole thing!
After witnessing the Son of God in the flesh, Peter up and says, yeah I never knew the guy. What!? Peter is straight up insane! On the very night that Jesus is being questioned by pilate and sentenced to crucifixion, Peter stands warming himself by a "charcoal fire". When asked if he knows this Jesus, Peter denies his closest friend not once, but three times! (John 18:15-27).
Peter then watches Jesus die on the cross. What must have been going through his head? Peter witnessed firsthand: Jesus being transfigured on the mountain side, feeding the 5,000, raising the dead to life and healing the sick, yet Peter still cannot grasp that Jesus is the Son of God. Even though Jesus told his disciples clearly that he would die and then be raised on the third day. (Matthew 16:21-33) Peter still fails to understand. Then guess what Peter does? In his shame he goes back to what he knew before Christ. Fishing. Peter goes back and sits in his boat and cast out his net for fish.
Peter takes Thomas, Nathaniel, and two other disciples with him and says, "let's go fishing" (John 21:1-3), but they catch nothing. Then as day is breaking, Peter looks out and he sees someone on the shore. Peter doesn't know that it is Jesus, but of course Jesus asks, "Children, do you have any fish?" (John 21:5). Of course they don't and so Jesus tells them to cast their net on the right side of the boat:
"So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish" John 21:6
Finally, when one of the disciples standing next to Peter says, "It is the Lord!", Peter throws himself into the sea! (John 21:7).
The next part of the story kills me: With love and care, Jesus makes Peter and the disciples breakfast on a "charcoal fire". Jesus recreates the scene in which Peter had denied him three times:
"When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” John 21:9-10
Once they finished breakfast Jesus asks Peter, not once, but three times, "Do you love me?" (John 21:15-19). I can only imagine how Peter felt. Peter had abandoned his Lord. Yet, Jesus revealed himself to Peter again and again and called him to "feed my sheep"
My heart's cry is that we would experience the love of Jesus in this way. That we would hear his voice and respond. When we fall back into a life without Christ, that we would remember the story of Peter. No matter what place of belief or un-belief we are experiencing, Jesus is constantly pursuing us and calling us to follow him.