9When 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.
Have you recently been disappointed by someone, or have you been the source of their disappointment? In a week’s time, those following Jesus went from a deep experience of the first to an almost tragic level of the second. Other than Judas, the disciple who likely experienced this shift the most was Peter.
Remember Friday night, standing in the courtyard with the smell of a charcoal fire wafting through the air. Not once, or twice, but three times Peter not only denied being a follower of Jesus, he denied even knowing him. This was certainly related to fear, but it was more than that. When the guards came to arrest Jesus, Peter courageously stepped forward and slashed an ear. Had Jesus yelled “Charge!”, is there any doubt Peter would have been at the front of the attack? Instead Jesus says, “Put your sword away…” and an emotion stronger than fear crept into Peter’s heart—disappointment. “We had thought,” another disciple would later say, “he was the one to redeem Israel….” All those following Jesus believed he was the Messiah, the appointed one. In their eyes, his arrest, crucifixion and death both disappointed them, and “dis-appointed” Jesus from his role as Messiah.
I wonder which Peter smelled first, the food or the fire? The first whetted his appetite while the second killed it. An-tha-kia, the word for charcoal fire, is used only twice in the Bible. Both usages are in the gospel of John, with one being here on the beach, while the other is in the temple courtyard where Peter failed. The beach smoke undoubtedly transported Peter back to that night and perhaps prepared him for punishment. Like a child in trouble waiting in their room for their parent to dole out the consequences, Peter waited. What would Dad bring? Stern words, a paddle or the disappointment speech?
I have been grounded, spanked, flipped off, yelled at, berated and threatened. But the worst punishments of my life sounded nothing like these. Instead, they came in cool, measured tones only one sentence long, “I’m disappointed in you.” Decades removed from those instances and I still feel a little stab in my gut thinking about them. There is incredible power in disappointment. We will move worlds to avoid it and dig our own graves as a consequence.
Peter eats and waits and dreads. Finally Jesus speaks, “Simon son of John…do you love me more than these?” Although scholars disagree on what Jesus pointed to when he said, “these,” I tend to agree with the theory that Jesus was pointing to the fishing net and boat, asking Peter if he loved Jesus more than his old profession. Did Peter love Jesus more than his previous appointed way of life? To which Peter replies, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus responds, “Feed my lambs.” Then Jesus continues…
Simon, son of John, do you love me?
Tend my sheep
Simon, son of John, do you love me?
Yes, Lord you know it.
Feed my sheep.
Three times Peter denied knowing Jesus and three times Jesus asks Peter where his devotion now lay: in the boat or in Jesus. The word disappointment comes from a 14th Century French word which means to “dispossess of an appointed office.” Peter believed Jesus was disappointed in him and would therefore dis-appoint him from his office. What does he get instead? An invitation to love and a re-appointment to serve. “You did not choose me,” Jesus said earlier, “but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit— fruit that will last.” (John 15:16) Nothing Peter, the disciples, us, or even Judas for that matter, have done can change that appointment.
Is God ever disappointed with us? Many stories in the Bible seem to indicate so, and perhaps it is the case. In friendship, relationship and discipleship, the fear of disappointing is a powerful force. Martin Luther King once said, “There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.” And yet, Jesus’ approach with Peter leads me to wonder if there is an even deeper truth beyond Dr. King’s words. Could it be that it is only deep love that is able to redeem deep disappointment?
Board Member, Street Psalms
Pastor, Manitou Park Presbyterian Church