And I'm learning to appreciate that journey.
The story of Peter's that has gripped my attention so thoroughly in the past couple of weeks was his seeing Jesus at the Sea of Galilee as recorded in John 21.
I could see the boat rocking as Peter jumped, taste the salt, hear Jesus laugh with joy and feel Peter's absolute desperation as he swam toward his Savior. Think about it. The last personal interaction recorded between Peter and Jesus was Jesus telling him about his three denials, and Peter vehemently denying it would happen. What would he have been feeling as he leapt from the boat? Would he be expecting Jesus to say, "I told you so," "I forgive you?" A rebuke, a scorning, or did it even matter?
I couldn't get the image out of my mind, so I decided to look for pictures of the Sea of Galilee and let my ever active imagination let the story roll around.
It's been a long night for the fishermen. It's almost dawn, they've been fishing all night. A bit of fog is obscuring the shoreline and the sky is slightly cloudy. From the looks of it, it probably will be a stormy day. Peter, Thomas, James, John and the rest stand in the boat stretching their backs.
They had leaned over the boat, cast the nets, pulled them in... 8 hours of it really puts a strain on the body. They kept hoping they'd have something to eat when they pulled up the nets... No luck. 8 grueling hours, and nothing to eat.
Thomas says, "Let's go back to shore. We'll try again later."
So, they begin the journey back. The sun is peaking over the mountains now, creating a glare off the water's surface, when the clouds don't obscure it.
About 150 yards from the shoreline a man calls out, "Have you caught anything?" The fishermen look toward the shore, shielding their eyes from the glare of the sun. They can't see if it's anyone they know, so they yell back, "Nothing" and continue toward shore.
The man then makes a strange request. "Try throwing your nets off the other side of the boat." And peculiarly, they decide to try it again. None of them can quite decide why. Despite the fact that their backs are screaming for a break, their stomachs are growling in hunger, their eyes are dry from lack of sleep, and lets face it- it doesn't matter whether they cast from the port or starboard side, there are no fish!
They throw off the nets again.
This time, it's different. They can tell from the first tug of the net. It's full! And overloaded! Teeming with fish! They all look at each other, and John says what they're all thinking, "It's the Lord!"
Peter wastes no time, he grabs his shirt and dives into the water. He can't swim fast enough. Jesus lets out a shout of laughter Peter's impetuousness.The rest of the disciples wrestle the nets replete with fish as Peter swims. Then he reaches the shore... drenched shirt still in hand, eyes brimming, heart bursting with a myriad of emotions. Peter hears nothing of the sea, nothing of the crackling fire on the sandy beach, nothing of his struggling friends gleeful whooping. Peter and Jesus are alone on that shore.
Peter drops to the ground in a heap, sobbing with remorse and repentance, joy at the sight of his Savior, and marveling that it's real. He crawls toward Jesus, because his legs are shaking so much that he can't stand. He kisses the feet of his Lord, his many tears wash away the sand on Jesus' toes, and when Peter looks up, Jesus is smiling. Peter begs forgiveness, and forgiveness is extended. And in those moments, Peter understands the love of Christ. The sun bursts through the clouds in those precious moments of forgiveness.
The cross begins to make sense. Jesus knew. He knew that without Him, we would be lost. And He couldn't bear it. He could bear the mockery, the marathon beatings, the feeling of complete and utter rejection, the most painful death... but He couldn't bear to be separated from us forever.
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8