On Easter, as a special guest preacher, Simon Peter preached our message on the topic of Easter and his epistle, 1 Peter. He came with fishing gear to demonstrate his trade and shared with us that for him, Easter was all about fish.

“Fish is Life” had been the bumper sticker on his boat. “I saw that fish was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and to be desired to make one wise,” he shared. “I’d see the fish, take the fish, kill the fish, and consume the fish, and then crave more fish.”

He actually caught a fish in the sanctuary, and then he caught a woman (he said that she was his wife). He reeled her in — in Greek: “helkuo.” It means “to draw” as with a line or a net, and metaphorically it means “to romance.” He caught a woman but shared that loving her was more of a challenge; just as he consumed the fish, he could consume his wife. He caught friends, like his fishing partner, John, but jealous of John, he couldn’t know or be known by John.

“Imagine if I could catch God,” he mused. “For me, Easter meant ‘Fish, friends, God, and glory,’ because that is just what I got in John 21 after Jesus rose from the dead.”

He had been fishing all night and caught nothing. A man called from the beach, “Try casting the net on the right side of the boat.” When he did, he caught a boatload of miracle fish. He shared that pastors often spoke of the great obedience he demonstrated in casting the net on the other side of the boat — something that, to a fisherman, would’ve seemed entirely absurd. Faithful obedience is righteousness, and righteousness is glorious, and Simon Peter reminded us that many considered him to be the first Pope.

“On Easter, people come to church wanting to know how to catch miracle fish, how to get this Easter thing to work for them, how to get eternal life. Well, in case you missed it,” he said. “We didn’t know it was Jesus on the beach, so we didn’t get ‘it’ to work for us. And, secondly, in case you think I was being so obedient or righteous, in case you think that I was dressed like the Pope on Easter morning, you need to know that . . . I was naked.”

John 21:7, John wrote, “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.”

Peter then clarified some things: “1. I wasn’t being sexy; it was normal to only have one set of clothes, and fishing is messy. So, we often kept our clothes in the front of the boat. 2. I didn’t want to be naked. In our day, clothing meant honor, and nakedness meant humility and vulnerability. And 3. John was a poet, and he knew me. He was pointing out that I was naked like Adam was naked, like a newborn baby is naked, and a man, crucified on a tree, is naked.”

“I was naked,” Peter said. “But this time was not the first time I had cast my nets at the direction of Jesus and caught a boatload of miracle fish. The first time, I wasn’t naked,” he shared. “And the first time, I knew it was Him — actually, I was putting him to the test.”

The first time (recorded in Luke 5), Peter fell at the feet of Jesus and begged Him to leave, saying, “Depart from me. I am a sinful man.”

“I obeyed. I cast the net where He told me to cast it. And I received fish, friends, God, and glory. And I begged Him to leave… Why?” asked Peter. “I got everything I wanted and couldn’t want anything I got, because all of it was free. And I knew it. And so, it sunk my boat and ripped a giant hole in my psyche,” said Peter. “You build a self, a soul, a psyche (in Greek) by catching things in your net. I suddenly realized that I didn’t make the fish swim into my net; and I couldn’t pay for any that had or pay for the One that would make them do so. God was in my nets, and He was ripping them to shreds.”

Jesus then said to Peter, James, and John, “Fear not, I will make you fishers of men (and women).”
“I think I heard, ‘I will give you knowledge to make yourself a fisher of men,'” said Peter.
Jesus once told Peter, “You are rock (petros), and on this petros, I will build my church.”
“I think I heard, ‘You must be a rock and build my church,” said Peter. “And I tried.”
Three years later, Peter had failed, utterly.

Once Jesus referred to Peter as “Son of Jonah.” Peter noted that Jonah didn’t catch fish, but he was caught by a fish and vomited up onto a beach — “naked and covered in schmutz,” commented Peter, as if that were “The Sign of Jonah.”

Three years later, just after Judas betrayed Jesus, Peter denied Jesus three times. “Whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father in heaven,” said Jesus. It’s called apostasy.

At the third denial, Jesus looked at Peter. “It was like he didn’t even know the man that had just denied him,” said Peter. “As if that man were just some sort of self-righteous, pompous illusion. He looked right through him and saw me, naked, frightened, and so utterly alone. It ripped a hole in my psyche, the size of a whale,” said Peter.

After Jesus rose from the dead, Peter still didn’t know what it meant, or what he meant to Jesus — whether or not he was a fisher of men and a “rock (petros)” on which the Lord would build his church.

One day, Peter said, “I’m going fishing… for fish.” Six others, including John, joined him and all night long, they caught nothing. Perhaps it’s just as much a miracle that there was nothing on one side of the boat, as they caught 153 large fish on the other side of the boat.

When John yelled, “It’s the Lord!” Peter didn’t beg Jesus to leave, like the first time. Peter grabbed his clothes, left the fish, and dove into the sea, swimming as fast as he could a hundred yards to Jesus. “I swam or I was drawn (helkuo),” said Peter.

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw (helkuo) all people to myself,” said Jesus. “That would include Judas,” commented Peter.

When Peter got to the beach, Jesus already had fish and loaves roasting on the fire. He didn’t need Peter to catch fish; apparently, He just wanted Peter to share in His Joy.

After breakfast and in front of the others, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter thinks He meant, “Do you love me more than John loves me? Do you think love is your accomplishment, Peter? You are the accomplishment of Love.”

“I was clothed, but I never felt so naked… or so loved,” said Peter. “He undressed me, and He dressed me. He undressed me of my fig leaves, the work of the lie, the dragon’s flesh. He undressed me of my self-righteousness, and with each tear of my flesh, He uncovered another righteousness more brilliant than the sun. With each question, my answer got stronger as I cried, ‘I love you, and you know I love you, for you are the love that is welling up from within my soul.’ Each time He replied, ‘Feed my sheep, Petros,’ as if all my failure only revealed who it is that I truly am: God’s success.”

“He clothed me with humility (1 Peter 5:5, ‘Be clothed with humility’), and righteousness from the inside out (1 Peter 3:4, ‘Let your adorning be the hidden man of the heart.’) He clothed me with power and with Life — and He is ‘the life.'”

Peter then shared with us how he died. As he was fleeing Rome, he saw Jesus walking into Rome carrying a cross. “It wasn’t a great obedience,” said Peter. “I was just swimming to Jesus.”

He then quoted something that his friend John saw in his Revelation (12:1), “‘And a great sign appeared in heaven: A woman clothed with the sun.’ That woman is you and she has the glory of God,'” said Peter. “Your ego, your old psyche, cannot even begin to bear the weight of that glory. And so, your sense of responsibility is your greatest liability — a ‘lie ability’ to which you must die.”

“And so, this is my advice to you on Easter:
1. Fish naked. Wear clothes, but fish naked: ‘Be clothed with humility.’ It’s not your righteousness that catches the fish; it’s the righteousness of Christ that is catching you.
2. When you see Him — and you will see Him — don’t hide in fig leaves or ask Him to leave because you’ve already judged yourself unworthy; just dive in and swim to Jesus.
3. He will clothe you with Himself and all things.”

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