9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Step outside on a warm day and you may smell someone grilling over charcoal. What a wonderful scent! When I catch of whiff of that, I’m instantly transported to memories of fun family picnics filled with laughter, burgers, and games in the grass. For me, this distinct scent creates very positive memories.
Peter probably wouldn’t share in this sentiment. In today’s text, the Risen Christ appears, for a third time, to the disciples when they’re going fishing. They don’t recognize that it is Jesus, and the text is very specific to include Peter’s involvement. They aren’t catching any fish until Jesus gives instruction, then they have more than they can handle. This is how they recognize Christ and are greeted at the shore with Jesus burning a charcoal fire. This detail is not to be overlooked.
When was the last time we know Peter to have been around a charcoal fire? Well, in John 18:18, where Peter denies Jesus three times, there is also this detail of a charcoal fire burning. We know this is a moment Peter thought would never happen and then it did, he did deny his friendship with Jesus. I can only imagine the sickening, regretful, gut memory the smell of a charcoal fire brings back for Peter.
This text leads into Jesus asking Peter three questions and basically reinstating him into the group of Christ-followers despite his previous denial. It’s a powerful statement on what forgiveness even is: Jesus is more then happy to forgive Peter for what he did, but forgiveness does not mean not taking responsibility for your actions. Here, through the power of scent, Jesus is pulling Peter back to the moment of his great wrongdoing. Peter cannot escape what he has done, pretend it never happened, there’s an important piece to forgiveness about ownership of one’s own sin. But Jesus is also there ready to forgive.
Might we do the same.
By Rachel Callender
For Pondering & Prayer
What has forgiveness looked like in your life? I’m talking about true, no hard-feelings forgiveness. Can you think of a time specifically when forgiveness played an essential role in your relationship with God?
Prayer: Risen Christ, you have forgiven us and forgiven us time and time again. We do not deserve how merciful you are. Work through us this day, to help us gain self-awareness so that your benevolence can be met with our own spiritual growth. Amen.