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There must have been some small part of Peter that was relieved on Holy Saturday.

He was devastated. Of course he was. But he also knew what he’d done. He remembered the innocent question of the maidservant and how he’d fallen all over himself to deny Jesus, not once but three times. He remembered Jesus’ prediction of just such an occurrence, remembered his arrogant boasting that he would never do such a thing. “I will lay down my life for you!” he’d cried, using the language that Jesus had used for the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.

Peter must have shuddered to think of it. But that wasn’t the worst part.

After he’d boasted and blustered, after he’d fallen asleep, after he’d gone flailing about with a sword, after he’d fled, after—God help him—he’d denied the Master, the one he’d promised his life to. After all that, Jesus had looked at him. As the cock crowed, Jesus’ gaze had crossed the courtyard to Peter, shaking by that charcoal fire.

He’d known.

Whether or not he’d heard, he’d known.

And there was compassion in those eyes. There was mercy.

Though Peter mourned his Lord, some part of him must have breathed a sigh of relief at knowing that he’d never have to face Jesus again, never have to own up to his many failures.

But then he rose.

And it was good news, wonderful news. But there was a heaviness in the midst of all the joy. How on earth was Peter going to apologize this time? How could he ever pretend to be worthy of Calvary when he had spent Good Friday running from the Cross?

So Peter needed Jesus’ tidings of peace more than any that incredible night when he met them once more in the upper room. But though Peter was surely waiting for Jesus to say something about his failure by the charcoal fire, Jesus spoke only to the group. Not to Peter.

When he came back again, it was time for reconciliation. But not with Peter, only with Thomas.

And so Peter went fishing. It seems that after seeing Thomas reconciled with Jesus, Peter may just have decided that he was a lost cause. He had failed so much more than Thomas, but Jesus hadn’t said a word of forgiveness to him. Peter had been established as the Rock the Church would be built on, but he’d crumbled. He didn’t have anything to offer. So he went back to what he was good at.

Only he wasn’t. Just as when he was first introduced to us in Luke 5, Peter caught nothing. But as he stood there loathing himself and his constant failures, he heard a voice from over the waters. The same voice he’d heard three years before, and the same call: cast your nets and you will find something. Again he threw his useless nets into the empty water and again they were filled to tearing.

Peter didn’t need John to point out, “It’s the Lord.” He knew. He remembered that morning years earlier, when the Messiah had come to him, had made him bear fruit, had promised to make something of him. And he remembered the moment of true humility he’d had then, falling at the feet of Jesus and saying, “Go away. I’m a sinful man.”

He was a sinful man. Even more now, it seems, than before he’d met Jesus.

And Jesus had still come for him. Called him again. Started the whole thing anew, a resurrection of Simon Peter on par with the Resurrection of the Christ.

So Peter (so relieved he wasn’t thinking straight) put his shirt back on, jumped into the water, and swam to shore. The boat met him there easily, but Peter was too eager to get to Jesus to care. He dragged all those fish in himself and then ate with Jesus.

Right there by a charcoal fire.

The only other time in the Gospels that we see a charcoal fire was at the moment of Peter’s fall. Now Jesus had built a charcoal fire, its scent evoking the shame and sorrow Peter had felt that wretched night.

And then the moment of truth. Jesus looked at Peter—with those same eyes that had gazed at Peter in his lowest moment—and asked, “Peter, do you love me?”

He used the word agape, the Greek word meaning complete, self-emptying love.

Peter of two weeks earlier would have proclaimed himself the greatest lover in the history of love. He would have insisted that he loved Jesus more than anyone else (“I will lay down my life for you!”), all braggadocio and no self-knowledge.

But this Peter had been humbled. He’d finally realized his arrogance and his weakness and here he stood before Jesus, trying to be honest. “I really like you,” he said pathetically, using the Greek phileo, meaning brotherly love.

This, it seems, was the sincerity Jesus was looking for. No longer was Peter the arrogant fisherman whose life was rooted in his pride; here was a humble fisher of men, looking to his Savior to shore him up.

“Feed my lambs,” Jesus said. Then he asked a second time: “Do you love me completely, with everything you are?”

Again, Peter hung his head. “I really like you.”

And Jesus, seeking humility and honesty rather than grand claims of future faithfulness, approved: “Tend my sheep.”

Peter had denied Jesus three times, and he needed to repent three times. But our sweet, merciful Jesus knew he also needed to be thrown a proverbial bone. So he toned down his question to one Peter could answer with joy. Do you phileo me? “Peter, do you like me?”

And with that, Peter finally understood that he was forgiven. Freely and fully forgiven, raised again, and restored to his role as shepherd on behalf of the Good Shepherd. So thorough was this reconciliation that Jesus promised Peter the crown of martyrdom, that he who had fled before a serving girl would be strengthened to endure even unto death.

Peter wasn’t an entirely new man. In the moment after receiving this promise, Peter took his eyes off Jesus and asked what would happen to John. John who had entered the courtyard while Peter had stayed outside. John who had stood at the foot of the Cross while Peter had hidden in shame. John who had raced to the tomb and beaten Peter there. “What about him?”

But the Christian life is not about comparison. And so we hear the last words John recounts from Jesus: “What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”

This to Peter, who had spent his life worrying about what other people thought. “What does it matter what everyone else does, what everyone else thinks, what everyone else says? You follow me.”

“You follow me.” That’s the point of the Resurrection. Not just a divine do-over or a happily-ever-after at the end of a sad story. The Resurrection doesn’t just accomplish something for us; it demands something of us. It’s an invitation, a call to bring our mess as Peter did, to lay it bare before our merciful Savior, and then to follow him.

This Easter, we’ve been soaking in the imagery and the emotion of the Resurrection appearances. We’ve been examining our own doubts and fears and inadequacies and brokenness. And now we stand with Peter, redeemed and restored, and we hear Jesus say, “Follow me.” That means something different for every person, in every season.

This Easter, right now, in your life, what does it mean? How is Jesus asking you to follow him?