Have you ever failed so bad that you just wanted to disappear? I would guess that if you've ever tried to do anything, you know all about failure.
But no matter how many times we experience failure, it never becomes something that we are comfortable with because failure hurts. Failure causes you to feel vulnerable. Failure forces you to realize that you're not perfect. And failure, when experienced in front of people can be very embarrassing and at times can even feel shameful.
I think Peter - one of Jesus' followers - understood exactly what it was like to be a failure.
Remember the whole walking on water episode - what a nightmare was that . . .
Peter and the disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when a storm kicked up. Then, in the midst of the storm, they saw Jesus walking across the sea. Peter called out to Jesus asking him to walk on the water. He wanted to be like Jesus. Jesus beckoned him to come. Then when Peter stepped out onto the water, he stayed up for a step or two - until he became afraid of the waves. Then he sank into the water and had to be pulled out by Jesus - How embarrassing - and what a big failure he was in front of the other disciples.
But I would imagine that if we were to ask Peter what his most humiliating failure was, he would tell us about the night that Jesus was arrested and put on trial.
Earlier in the evening, Peter had declared to Jesus that even if everybody else deserted him in his darkest hour, he would never do that - even if it meant that he had to die with him.
Jesus told him . . . that before the morning, Peter would deny knowing him three times but Peter refused to believe that to be possible because He loved this man. Loved him to death.
But after Jesus had been arrested and was being put on trial, we find Peter lurking by a fire - trying to be inconspicuous - in hopes to see what was happening and yet not be identified.
But in the glow of the fire, a servant girl recognizes him and she identifies him as a follower of Jesus and three times, he denied knowing anything about...ahh...whatever His name was.
And with that, Peter had failed.
How could this be, Peter was supposed to be Jesus' right hand man. He was supposed to be the rock in which the church would be built upon.
How could he be the one to have betrayed him like that?
But perhaps . . . Peter had to fail in order to fully understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.
After Jesus had been crucified and had risen from the dead. He appeared to his disciples and he told them to meet him in Galilee. After they had gathered together in Galilee and were waiting for the arrive of Jesus, Peter said, "Let's go fishing while we wait"
Listen to what happens (Read John 21:1-25)
"Come and have breakfast," said Jesus that morning. And Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James and John, and two others came. They'd been out all night fishing and had caught nothing.
And then they heard a voice in the darkness speaking to them from the shoreline. It told them to make a change. "Throw your net on the [other] side of the boat, and you will find [what you're looking for]."
For some reason-maybe desperation . . . maybe inspiration-they'd obeyed the voice. They hauled in their net and then threw it out on the other side, and bam! Found it filled with so many fish that their net nearly broke.
When Peter realized that the voice from the shoreline was Jesus, he jumps out of the boat and swims for shore. And when he gets there, he finds that Jesus has prepared breakfast for them and together they share a meal.
After eating, Jesus takes Peter aside for a little one on one.
Jesus asks Peter, "Do you truly love me more than these?"
Do you see what he is doing? He is reminding Peter of the last time they had shared a meal together. Remember Peter's bold declaration that even if everybody turns their back on you - I will be there for you because I love you more than these other guys
But then to save his own skin, Peter denies Jesus - not just once but three times.
And now standing there on the seashore, they eat another meal together and Jesus is reminding Peter of his failure . . . not once but three times.
But there is more going on in this interaction than Jesus simply reminding Peter of his failures.
You see, we only have one word in the English language for Love and it can be used in a lot of different ways
We can say "I love my grandmother" and we can also say "I love Lima beans"
But the Greeks have more than one word for Love and in this text, we find two of them:
Agape - unconditional, never dying love. It's the way God loves us.
Fileo - affection. It's the way that humans love one another.
The first time Jesus asked, he said: "Do you truly agape me, Peter?"
The fisherman could have replied in his characteristic prideful way. But a humble honesty has begun to fill the once empty place at the core of Peter's soul. "Yes, Lord, you know that I feel fileo for you," he says.
Again Jesus tests him, "Simon, son of John, do you truly agape me?" "Yes, Lord, you know that I fileo you."
But then, the formula in this text changes.
The third time, Jesus asks: "Do you have fileo for me, Peter?"
And breathing a sigh of relief at this grace, Peter quietly responds, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I have fileo for you."
You see, in this interaction, Jesus wasn't just reminding Peter of his failure, he was telling Peter that you can't do what I have done. In all of your enthusiasm, zeal and good intentions, you cannot be God.
You cannot walk on water as I walk on water. You cannot love as I have loved
And it took failure to help Peter understand this truth.
And as Peter recognizes this truth, Jesus gives him three commands - feed my lambs, take care of my sheep, follow me. With each command, Jesus conveys to Peter that he's entrusting him with a Spiritual responsibility. No matter what Peter's past failures, Jesus still has a job for him to do and as we see in the rest of Peter's story . . . that he was a success in Jesus Christ as we went on to fully engage in worship, witness, study, sharing and serving.
Hebrews 4:12 says "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any doubled -edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; exposing the thoughts and attitudes of our heart."
The word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ is also living and active. And He dares to ask the penetrating questions that cut to the very soul. And he continues to come back to ask us the questions that need to be answered - not to hurt us but to heal us.
I wonder . . . what question might Jesus ask you over breakfast?
Because only through the opportunity to honestly answer his questions and admit our failures and shortcomings and to tell him we love him will energize us to fully engage in worship, witness, study, sharing, and serving.