(Inspired by John21:15-25)
The day had been long—and wonderful! Rock, Andrew, big James, young John, Thomas the Twin, Philip, and Nathaniel had gone out on Rock and Andrew’s boat and fished all night. By daybreak they were exhausted and frustrated because they had caught no fish…not any! But then Jesus showed up. He had told the disciples to cast their nets on the right side of the boat and they would find fish. As soon as they threw in the nets, one hundred and fifty-three large fish swam right in. It was amazing! They beached the boat where Jesus had been waiting for them with breakfast. The time with the Lord was delightful for all of them—except Rock. He and Jesus had a long talk as they all walked on the shore, and Rock hadn’t been the same since.
After Jesus had left them, they walked back to the boat, loaded the fish, stowed the nets, and sailed home. It was afternoon when they arrived, and everyone was excited to hear about the appearance of Jesus.
It had taken all of them to transfer the fish from the boat into Zebedee’s largest cart, but then off he and his servants went to the market to sell the magnificent catch.
The sun was now setting, and everyone was inside the house celebrating. Young John looked around the courtyard and didn’t see Rock. Walking to the gate and looking out at the lake, the disciple spotted his missing friend sitting in his boat and watching the orange sunset.
“Rock, are you okay?”
“Oh, hey, John,” Rock returned as he looked down and realized John had walked up beside the boat. “I guess I’m alright, but after my talk with the Lord, I don’t think I will ever look at things the way I used to.”
“I’ve been wondering what He said to you,” John asked, “but you and Jesus were ahead of us as we walked along the shore, and I couldn’t hear His words.”
“I had been dreading that conversation with Him since the resurrection,” Rock began. “I failed Him so miserably at the trial at Caiaphas’s house…three times I denied Him. You know! You were there!
“When He came up to me and wanted to talk, I knew it was time. Do you know what He called me, John? He didn’t call me Rock like He used to. He said to me, ‘Simon, son of John of Bethany, do you love Me more than these?’”
“Wow!” John said. “I don’t remember Jesus being that formal with any of us! What did He mean, ‘do you love Me more than these?’”
“He was asking me if I loved Him more than all of you do,” Peter shot back unashamedly.
“What did you say?”
“A few weeks ago…no, a few days ago, I would have said, ‘Absolutely, I do.’ You know how cocky and boastful I am. I declared my undying loyalty to Him that night in the upper room. I said that, even if all of you others ran away, I never would. But He saw through all that and told me that I was going to fail Him three times within a few hours…AND I DID! So now when He asked me if I loved Him, I couldn’t say it. I didn’t trust myself. I didn’t think He could ever trust me again either. All I could say to Him was, ‘Lord, you know that I really, really like You.’ It hurt me, John, not to tell Him that I loved Him. I think it hurt Him too, but I couldn’t lie to Him or to myself again.”
“What did He say?”
“He brushed it off,” Rock answered. “He acted like that was good enough for Him. He told me to take care of His lambs.”
“Yeah, you know, people who are new believers in Him…new followers.
“Do you know what that means, John? He still accepts me! He still trusts me! I felt so good and so encouraged after He said that. This huge grin spread across my face…but then He asked me again, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’”
“Rock,” John broke in, “the Master has obviously forgiven you. He has even given you a specific and very important work to do for Him. Surely you can see that Jesus is worthy of your love.”
“YES, JOHN, YES!” Rock exclaimed with emotion as he raked his fingers through his hair. “Jesus is more than worthy of my love, but I am not worthy of HIS! After my failures, I doubted that I was capable of loving Him—not like all of you do, and I couldn’t say it!”
“What DID you say?” John asked.
“I said, ‘Yes, Lord, You know how much I like You.’”
“You again only said that you LIKED Him?”
“That was the only word that I could trust to be true.”
John snorted. “I would have walked off and left you right then if you had said that to me twice.”
“I KNOW!” Rock returned in obvious anguish. “But it was all I could say and still be truthful. His response was the same. He acted satisfied and told me to shepherd His sheep. I felt so relieved when He said that, even though I refused to tell Him that I loved Him. At least He would let me serve Him.”
“I was walking only a little ways behind you two, and I had no idea you were having that conversation,” John said.
“That wasn’t the end of it,” Rock said softly, hanging his head. “He faced me a third time and said, ‘Simon, son of John, do you like Me?”
John was stunned and turned to look into the face of his friend. He saw tears streaming down the face of the tough fisherman.
“On that terrible night I had denied Him three times, John,” Rock said through his tears, “and now He was giving me three chances to confess my love for Him, but I couldn’t do it! Twice I had failed to give Him what He most wanted from me.”
“So He came down to your level so that you wouldn’t fail again,” John said with a smile.
Rock nodded his head in agreement as he sobbed. “It broke my heart, John, that I couldn’t give Him what He wanted and that He had to come down to me. But I said to Him, ‘Lord, You know everything! You know that I really, really like you.’”
“What did He do?” John asked.
“He smiled at me, put His hand on my shoulder, and said, ‘Take care of my lambs.’”
“So is that all He said?” John wanted to know.
Rock stared at the fading sunset for a few minutes before he answered. “No. There’s more. He said that I have always been independent, taking care of myself and doing what I want, but that when I get old, I will stretch out my hands, and others with gird me and take me where I don’t want to go.”
“WHAT?” John asked in confusion.
“I’m pretty sure He meant that I’m going to be crucified as an old man.”
“I think we all know that crucifixion is a very real possibility for each of us,” John answered.
“Apparently it’s more than a possibility for me,” Rock answered. “After He said it, I looked at Him. His eyes seemed to soften, and He added, ‘Follow Me,’—like that’s the only thing that really matters.”
“Is there more?” John asked.
“There is one other thing,” Rock sighed. “I guess I’ve always been a little jealous of the closeness that you have had with Jesus, and so after Jesus told me what was waiting for me, I wanted some assurance that I wasn’t the only one who had to face hard things. So when I saw you following us, I asked Jesus what would happen to you.”
“What did He say?” John asked nervously.
“He said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return at the end of time, what is that to you? You follow Me!’
“So, John, do you think that means you’re not going to die?”
“No, I don’t,” John answered confidently. “I think it means that Jesus was telling you that, if you live a life following Him, there’s no room for being concerned about what He’s going to do with other believers. And that’s good advice for all of us who believe in the Master. We should just follow Him.”
John pulled on his friend’s arm and said, “Come on, Rock. Let’s go join the celebration. This has been a good day! We’ve been with Jesus, and thanks to Him, we had a great day fishing!”
As the two friends walked back to the house, Rock asked his young companion, “Jesus made it clear that He has work for us to do, so we can’t go back to fishing. Do you have any guess as to what we’ll be doing? Following Jesus can mean a lot of different things. ”
“Well,” John said thoughtfully. “I don’t know about you, but I think I’ll take Thomas’s suggestion and start putting together a book about all that Jesus said and did.”
“That’s going to be quite a job,” Rock laughed. “The biggest book in the world couldn’t hold everything the Lord said and did.”
“I’ll definitely be praying about it, but if it’s something He wants me to do,” John said with a smile, “I expect Jesus will show me the parts He wants me to put in it.”
By Alan W. Harris