Sermon Text: Two Charcoal Fires
The apostle Peter was not the greatest fisherman in the world.
Before he met Jesus, he and his brother Andrew used to have to rent boats to go fishing. They usually caught nothing. One time they rented a boat and had good luck for a change. They caught a lot of fish and came back to shore. Peter said, “Andrew, we gotta remember the spot where we caught all those fish.” Andrew said, “Don’t worry — I made an X on the side of the boat to mark the spot.”
Peter said, “You moron! How do you know we’ll get the same boat?”
Well, eventually the day came when Jesus walked along the shore. Jesus saw Peter and Andrew. They were dragging Thomas ashore using a rope. Jesus said, “I like to see people helping other people!” Peter said to Andrew, “Boy, he sure doesn’t know anything about shark fishing!”
Okay, enough with the jokes about Peter the poor fisherman.
But it is true that in the gospels, Peter never once catches fish without the help of Jesus. That’s kind of interesting. I think the gospel writers want to say that for Peter, without Jesus, nothing — with Jesus, everything. That’s how Peter experiences life, anyway.
I love Peter — he’s my favorite. His story gives me hope. You see, Peter is such a screw-up. He gets it wrong time and time again. He makes a lot of mistakes.
Just like me.
Yet Jesus has a special place in his heart for Peter. You can tell Jesus really likes Peter.
Peter misses the point and says the wrong thing all the time. But Jesus hangs in there with him and tries to keep him on track.
Think about the two charcoal fires. One charcoal fire was late on a Thursday night. Jesus was arrested, and Peter ran away, like all the other disciples. But unlike the other disciples, Peter got some courage back. He followed Jesus and the arresting party into the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. Peter sat down with the guards around a charcoal fire to get warm.
But that was as far as his courage went. When he was challenged, he denied Jesus. He failed Jesus. He let Jesus down.
Just like me.
Yet Jesus had a special place in his heart for Peter. The second charcoal fire came some days later. This one was in the morning.
Peter and his friends had been fishing all night. They caught nothing. And then a voice comes from shore. A mystery man shouts to the guys and tells them to try again. They do. And they catch a big haul of fish. They know the mystery man must be Jesus.
When they get to shore, there’s the charcoal fire. They had the Last Supper on Thursday night. Now it’s time for the First Breakfast. Jesus feeds his friends — again.
Then comes the amazing conversation. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times. You know, because of Peter’s three failures. Peter gets it. And he gets to tell Jesus “I love you” three times. Jesus loves him, too, and welcomes him back.
Just like me. Just like you.
We mess up. We fail. We let Jesus down. Yet we get the chance to get up again. We are welcomed back. We are forgiven.
How can you not love the story of Peter? It gives me such hope, and I bet you like its message, too.
But don’t miss the challenge here. Three times, Jesus says to Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
It’s like he is saying this to Peter: “I was the shepherd — now I’m leaving — serve a while in my place.”
After the resurrection, it’s all so quiet and simple. This humble man by the fire on the lakeshore talks so quietly. No big miracles now. No big pronouncements now. No big healings now. What he says is gentle and low: Love one another. Feed each other. Care for one another.
That’s our job now. “I was the shepherd,” he says. “Now I’m leaving. Serve a while in my place.” He just asks us to care for each other.
Peter is so human, so fallible, so slow to get it right. Just like me. Just like you.
Yet he is loved and forgiven by Jesus. Just like me. Just like you.
He just asks us to care for each other. That’s his message to all humanity. Take care of each other.
It’s so important to feed people, to be gentle with people, to take care of people.
It’s what we do as friends of Jesus.
It’s what we do as Christians.
It’s what we do as human beings.