Simon raised his hand to shield his weary eyes from the rising sun. His muscles ached, his heart ached, and his mind could not be quieted. As he pulled the empty nets into the boat, Simon peered into the distance across the water. He wondered if somewhere, across a great chasm perhaps, the Master was looking down on him.
His wife had tried to comfort him, reminding him of the Master’s forgiveness. She would be pleased today – it would not matter that there were no fish; only that he would be home early. She would be grateful for an opportunity to spend time with her husband – although he would not truly be with her, living instead in the perpetual tormented world of “what if”.
What if he were a King? The King? What had he done? What if he could go back to that night? What if The Master would only walk across the sea to calm the storm in Simon's mind?
Simon started towards the shore, empty nets in tow. Someone was standing on the beach.
Nearing shore, Nathanael interrupted his thoughts, “Good grief! Has this fellow come to the beach to get the best of the haul before they are sold in the market square?”
“Well, he is out of luck today,” Thomas groaned wearily, “We hardly have enough for ourselves, much less any fish to sell.”
“Perhaps he is hungry,” laughed John, motioning towards the beach ahead of them, “he has started a fire.”
“Friends, have you any fish?” the stranger on the beach called out to them.
“None, today, Sir,” they answered.
“Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some,” the voice echoed from shore.
Though too near shore, John complied and lowered the nets onto the right side of the boat. Immediately their nets began to swell and strain as the scaly creatures yielded to an invisible hand.
Steadying the boat, James whispered, “It is…is it?”
Could it be? Yes! Recognizing the figure on the beach, Simon dropped his bulging net and jumped out of the boat, leaving his friends who were now struggling against the weight of the huge catch.
Coming ashore, Simon ran frantically up the beach where the man now stood next to a glowing fire. Simon suddenly stopped and stared unblinking into the flames, the painful memory flooding his mind. The last time he had stood next to a fire was the worst moment of his life. He had denied the life he had pledged to live, he had denied himself, his friends and worst of all, he had denied Him. What could he possible say?
Simon could not look at His face, but stared silently at the fresh scars on the Master’s hands now preparing breakfast, obviously for the tired fishermen. Simon remembered the last meal that had been prepared for him - before there were scars.
Handing Simon a basket of fish, the Master inquired, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
Simon’s eyes brimmed with tears; the Lord had called him Simon and not Peter, rightly so. “More than these?” Simon looked at the others coming ashore around them. No, not more than these, he silently mused, for they did not deny you, as I did. The unspoken words hung heavily in the air, “no, not more than these, Lord!”
Simon whispered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
The Lord asked him again, “Simon, do you truly love me?
Simon bowed his head; the author of love was asking Simon about love. What did he know about it? He had proven that his love was temporal and flawed.
Simon answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
And again, the Lord asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon now looked intently into the face of the Father, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Recalling this conversation with the Lord on the beach of the Tiberian Sea some years later, Peter would find strength. As each of the three nails were driven deeper, Peter recalled the three times he had denied the Lord and likewise, the three times the Lord had given him the opportunity to reaffirm his love and bask in the warmth of forgiveness.
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