“And after saying this He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’” (John 21:19b)
After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to His disciples multiple different times. The first time was in a room, where they were hiding for fear of the Jewish leaders. He appeared to them in this room a second time, and then another time He came to them after they had spent the night in fruitless fishing. Jesus encouraged the disciples to cast their net one more time, and when they did so, they caught an exceptional amount of fish. When they returned to shore, they had breakfast with Jesus, and then He renewed His call to Peter. Once again, He invited him to follow Him. And once again, Peter heeded the call. The man who had so recently denied Jesus was now again eager to follow Him.
This episode in John is intriguing for a number of reasons. But one thing that’s interesting to me is how closely it mirrors the first time Jesus called Peter. At that time, Peter had also been fishing all night but caught nothing. When he listened to Jesus’ instructions, however, and cast the net again, he caught so many that his net was breaking. After this incredible catch, Jesus invited Peter to join Him, which he did without hesitation. This second time, Peter had also been fishing all night, but to no avail. But when Jesus arrived, he caught 153 fish at once. After this second catch, Jesus again invited Peter to follow Him. The parallels are striking, especially when you consider what Peter had just gone through. He had denied Jesus three times only a few days before. Guilt and regret must have been coursing through him. He was the one who had vowed never to leave Jesus, only to abandon Him in His hour of need. Why would Jesus want him back?
Yet here Jesus was, repeating His call. Furthermore, He gave Peter a hint of how he would die (John 21:18). According to tradition, he was crucified upside down. Jesus knew this, and He didn’t hide it from Peter. So when he responded this time, he knew exactly what he was getting into. The first time, he hadn’t been fully aware of Who Jesus was, much less that following Him could claim his life. This time, however, he knew; and he still chose to follow. Never again would he deny his Lord. Before, he hadn’t considered everything that might happen. It had never occurred to him that Jesus would die. But now, Jesus was alive again, and he was eager to follow. Nothing could keep him from complete obedience this time. He had counted the cost of following Jesus and found it priceless. He knew what it would mean, and yet he still chose to obey. Everything he had gone through beforehand had prepared him for this. The man who denied Jesus became one of the most influential men in the early church. He now knew what it meant to follow God, and from then on, he would do it with his whole heart.