During the week-long journey back to Galilee, Peter found time to think about the meaning of what had taken place in Jerusalem. Now he was home with his family and walking in his own garden. He thought about how the Lord had healed his mother-in-law Sarah. Then he looked up and saw the partially displaced tiles in the roof of his house where Ezra the paralytic had been let down through the roof by his friends. So many sick people had come whenever Jesus stayed there, and he had healed them all. They were pleasant memories, but the future was still a mystery and its possibilities intrigued him.
Next Sabbath in Capernaum, Peter gathered the local believers in his home and told the story of how Jesus was betrayed and crucified in Jerusalem during Passover, and the thrilling experiences of seeing their risen Lord.
They were amazed and asked, Will he appear to us?
Yes, he replied. The Lord had told us to return to Galilee and he will meet us here. Well just have to wait for further instructions. But as you all know, Im a man of action who hates waiting around, and I hope he appears soon.
One week passed, and then another, with still no revelation from the Master. Peter was seized by a strange restlessness he had never experienced in this beautiful land he loved so well. No longer able to tolerate the idleness, he went down to the lakeshore. His old fishing boat was on the sand beside Zebedees pierthe same one from which Jesus had first called them to be his disciples. Where was he? Why didnt he appear?
The sun was setting behind him and his patience had worn thin. The tall apostle stepped into his boat and sat down, then suddenly decided to go catch some fish. He thought he was waiting for Christ, but the Savior was waiting for him to do this very thing.
Peters former fishing partners and other disciples were nearby. He shouted to them, Im going fishing!
Well go with you, they called out as they ran toward him.
John, James, Thomas, Nathanael (Bartholomew) and two others joined Peter in his large boat and they all headed out into the lake for a night of fishing.
It was hard work casting the nets, especially when the fishermen had been away from their former occupation for such a long time. As they labored, they spoke of their experiences with Jesus, the lessons he had taught them, and the great days of the Galilean ministry; but even these memories had already begun to grow somewhat faint in the absence of the Master himself. The nights work had not even yielded enough fish for the needs of themselves and their families; so the men piled their nets into the bottom of the boat and started rowing toward Capernaum. All of them were thoroughly tired and discouraged.
A faint glow of dawn showed above the eastern hills and cities of Decapolis when the boat came to an area near the northwest shore of the lake between Capernaum and the Plain of Gennesaret. The disciples were not far from the natural amphitheater where Jesus had preached on the morning when he had called them to follow him. Known as the Seven Springs, it was the site of a beautiful garden marked by towering palms, cypresses, and wide branching eucalyptus trees. Cold water from the springs flowed into the lake, often causing fish to school in that area, but there was no catch that night.
While the apostles were heading in, Christ was standing on the beach, but they couldnt see who he was. How peaceful that man looked there, moving about on the shore. He wore a white robe that was touched with silver light. What was he doing there?
The tall stranger on the shore came down to the edge of the waves and called out, Friends, have you caught anything?
No, John answered somewhat shortly.
He called back to them, Cast your net on the starboard (right) side of the boat, and you will find plenty of fish!
The man was still only a vaguely outlined figure in the darkness and Peter hesitated to cast the net again, as he had on another occasion when Jesus told him to go out and lower the net in daylight. But something about this occasion reminded him of the other, so he obeyed. When he threw the net out, instantly he felt the surge of so many trapped fish inside that he couldnt haul them back on board.
With a sudden rush of joy, John realized who was on the beach. He said to Peter, It is the Lord!
The big apostle immediately put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and swam ashore. He had something he must set right with the Master. The rest of the disciples came ashore in the boat towing the bulging net, for they were only about three hundred feet from it.
Come Have Breakfast
When they landed, there was a charcoal fire with fish frying on it and a basket of bread nearby. The fire appeared to have been lit quite a while ago, but John wondered why they didnt see it before. Then he realized it was a miraculous fire for the miracle catch.
Jesus told Peter, Bring some of the fish youve just caught and add them to the coals.
Peter returned to his boat and dragged the net ashore. There were one hundred and fifty-three large fish, but the net had not torn. He selected some and placed them on the coals beside the ones Christ had cooking. It was symbolic of the Lord and his apostles working together in the Kingdom of God.
Soon the early meal was ready to eat. Now come have breakfast, Christ said warmly as he bent over the charcoal to take the food. The glow of the fire and rising sun revealed his identity, but no one dared to ask if he really was the Lord because they were sure of it.
Then he served them the bread and fish. Again in humility, the risen Savior served his children, as he had previously done when he had washed their feet at the Last Supper. This was the seventh appearance, and third time Jesus appeared to his disciples as a group since he had been raised from the dead.
Feed My Sheep
Breakfast was past and their time of fellowship came to an end. The Master told Peter to walk along the shore privately with him. Some special training was needed for the apostle, even more than Thomas, and he was expecting it. At the Passover supper, Christ had prophetically warned Peter of his coming denial, but the apostle insisted he would never do such a thing. Not long afterwards he had denied the Lord three times in the courtyard of the high priest while Jesus was being interrogated.
The Teacher asked him a question, using his old name, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others?
Peter replied, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Then feed my lambs, Christ said. He paused and asked a second time, Simon, son of John, do you love me?
Yes, Lord, you know I love you. This time he could not keep the hurt from his voice.
Then feed my sheep. A third time he asked, Simon, son of John, do you love me?
Peter was heartbroken that the question was asked three times over as though Christ doubted his love. He cried out in deep distress, Lord, you know everything; you know I love you!
Jesus told him for the last time, Then feed my sheep.
Then the apostle realized he had atoned for his threefold denial by a threefold affirmation of love, and knew that his sin was wiped away. He still had his commission which the Savior had given him earlier, On this rock I will build my church. All his distress was gone and he was finally at peace with himself.
With that settled, Christ disclosed the manner of death by which the tall fisherman was to glorify God, In truth I tell you: when you were young, you fastened your belt around you and walked where you chose. But when you are old, you will stretch out your arms, and a stranger will bind you fast and carry you where you have no wish to go.
Peter knew he was to glorify God by a martyrs death, and was to be given the honor of dying for his Lord as his Master had died for himupon the cross.
The apostle looked behind and saw John following them. He asked Jesus, What about him?
Christ reminded Peter, Follow me; that is your only concern! Each one has his own call and place in the kingdom. Then he gave instructions for his next appearance, and suddenly the place where the beloved figure stood was empty, with only his footprints remaining in the sandy beach.
John ran up to where the Savior had stood and asked, Will we ever see him again?
Peter was confident now, He will meet with us again. He told me to gather all the believers in Galilee and take them to the mountain where we were first selected to be his apostles.
Later, when all the people were assembled, the Lord appeared and gave his disciples a second commission, I have been given complete authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you; and be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Then he disappeared.
Return to Holy City
It was three weeks before the Feast of Pentecost, which was celebrated seven weeks after Passover on the sixth day of Sivan (June). Peter decided to return early and get a feel for the mood of the leaders toward the followers of Christ. He hoped tempers had died down and peace had returned to Jerusalem. The apostle sent word around Galilee that their group would be leaving in two days, and instructed all those who would be making the trip to gather at his house.
As the band of festive travelers was about to leave, James the half-brother of Jesus came running up to them with his brothers and sisters following. Peter, he exclaimed, last night Jesus appeared to me! I could clearly see the crucifixion scars, and his face seemed to be glowing with the love of God. He did not speak; he didnt have to. As I knelt as his feet, I sensed the Lord had given me a special calling, but wasnt sure of what it was, so I want to join you in hope that he will reveal what he wants me to do in Jerusalem. Our whole family is united in faith and they are traveling with us.
A week later, the band of Christs followers from Galilee arrived at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus in Bethany with all the news of the Masters appearances.
Peter did not want to take the group into Jerusalem without first evaluating what they might be facing there, so he and John continued on to the house of Marks parents. After embracing the family, the tall apostle asked, Have any of the followers of Jesus been persecuted?
No, not yet; its all quiet, Aaron replied. Caiaphas has been content with the crucifixion of the person he wanted, and a few scattered disciples dont pose a threat to him. Weve been hoping you would return for the feast.
What happened to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea?
Mary answered, They have been removed from the Sanhedrin, but are no threat to the leaders either. We are expecting them to come here tonight.
John missed his friends, It will be good to see them. We have so much to tell! The Lord has appeared to us several times in Galilee as he said he would.
Has the news of Jesus resurrection caused any reaction in the city? asked Peter.
It wouldif the people knew of it, Mark said angrily.
What of the guards who left the tomb? They must have told Caiaphas what happened there.
I am sure they did, Aaron agreed. But the high priest bribed them to say Jesus disciples attacked them in the night and stole his body from the tomb. Caiaphas has spread the lie so that no one would claim that he rose from the dead.
Peter could see this would make things more difficult, but the truth must be told. He said to Aaron, We are grateful for your offer to let us use the upper room as a gathering place. The rest of our group is at Bethany. We must now return so the others wont worry about us. Tomorrow well bring all of them back here and we can discuss what we should do next. James and the Lords brothers and sisters now believe.
Aaron was pleased, Ill tell Joseph and Nicodemus about the meeting planned for tomorrow, and send Mark right away to notify the rest in Jerusalem.
Jesus Appearance with Final Commission
The next evening when the apostles and all the believers were gathered together at a meal in the upper room, Christ appeared in their midst. As he sat and ate with them, he gave his last teaching about the Kingdom of God, When I was with you before, I told you what was written about me in Scripture must all come true. Then he opened their minds and explained the meaning of all the terrible things that had happened since Passover, concluding with, So you see, it was written long ago that the Messiah must suffer and die and rise again from the dead on the third day.
After supper, he gave a third and final commission, With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me. You are witnesses of all these things.
The apostles asked him, Lord, are you going to free Israel now and restore our kingdom?
The Father sets those dates, he replied, and they are not for you to know. When the Holy Spirit comes, you will receive power and tell people about me everywherein Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. Do not leave Jerusalem, but stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven. Remember, I have told you about this before. John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.
As quietly as he had come, he left them. Their training was completed, and the heavenly visitations must end and give way to a greater and more permanent form of communication. As a man with a physical body, Jesus could be present only in one place at one time; but in the power of his Holy Spirit he could be everywhere in every soul that was his own, closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feetin time and out of it.