Fresh Grilled Forgiveness (John 21:1-19)

By | April 18, 2010

Golgotha UnBound #2


     A Charcoal Fire brings back all sorts of memories. A Charcoal Fire along with Barbecue has a very distinct smell. The smell of wood smoke the rub, the sauce all mix together to make a unique smell. Add the charcoal smell on top of it and the smell sticks with you, especially if you’re the one who did the barbecuing. The smell lingers with you for days.

     Today we’re going to explore how that smell lingered in Peter’s life and what it meant for him. 

     Friends of a young mother, who had just given birth to her third child, were surprised when they received the following ‘Thank you’ note: “Many thanks for the play pen. It is being used every day. From 2-3 p.m. I get in to read and the children can’t get near me.”

     One of the rites of passage for young men is learning how to start a fire. Some of us learn it in the Scouts. Some learn from their buddies. Most of us learned it from our Dad’s. I can still here my Dad saying, “This is how you build a charcoal fire.” He went thru all the instructions but then, true to form, my Dad would then use about 1/2 gallon of charcoal lighter. When the flame hit is it was like a jet engine igniting. You had to stand back or you’d lose your eyebrows.

     The passage for today takes places after the resurrection and after Jesus’ 1st and 2nd resurrection appearance to the Disciples both with and without Thomas present.

SCRIPTURE: John 21:1-19 (NRSV)

[1] After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way.

[2] Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples.

[3] Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

[4] Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.

[5] Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.”

[6] He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.

[7] That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.

[8] But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

[9] When 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.”

[11] So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.

[12] Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.

[13] Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.

[14] This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

[15] When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

[16] A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”

[17] He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

[18] Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”

[19] (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

     The Disciples went to Galilee to wait for Jesus just as he had instructed them to do. But Jesus didn’t tell them what to do. Just wait. Do any of you like to wait in line or wait in Traffic. And how about waiting in the waiting room at the Doctor’s or Dentist’s Office? Unless I take a book to read, I get frustrated. And what about

     What do you do when you’re frustrated, when the stress gets to you? Some people bake or cook or eat; some people yell and scream: the list could go on and on. The Apostle Peter did what he knew best, he went fishing. Peter was a man of action, he couldn’t sit still. So, evening he said, “Look, I’ve got to do something. This sitting and waiting, this doing nothing, is driving me crazy. I’m going fishing.”

So, he went fishing. Everybody else came along and they encountered the risen Christ through FISH, FORGIVENESS AND THE CHALLENGE FOLLOW ME.


     A. I’m convinced that the events of that morning were designed to remind the disciples of all that Jesus had taught them. The events are very similar to the time Jesus asked Peter to push out from the shore in his boat so Jesus could use it as a floating podium. That day they had come in with empty nets and as both a reward for the use of the boat and a sign of who Jesus really was, they pushed out to deeper water and caught the miraculous catch of fish.

     Afterwards Jesus told them he would make them fishers of people and they dropped their nets and followed him.

     B. Here it is, three years later, they followed. They witnessed everything up to the crucifixion and even the resurrection. Now they were waiting. For what, they didn’t know. They were living in that time of the Great Disconnect. They had no idea what the future held, let alone, what to expect today. But they were waiting.

     Again, the night’s fishing had been fruitless. As they were coming in, they encountered a stranger on the beach, who asks how the fishing was and then tells them “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

     The Apostle John must have been the quickest or sharpest because he got it right away. In the hearing of those words, John’s mind and heart were immediately back to that day when he and the others were first called.

     They did cast their nets and bam another miraculous load of fish. That’s the FISH part.


     A. But there’s also the FORGIVENESS part. John was the first one to realize who it was on the Beach. And when he told Peter, “It’s the Lord!” Peter did the strangest thing of all. The custom back then was to fish in your BVDs. You took off your robe, folded it up and put it in a dry spot. That way the fish smell didn’t permeate everything.

     So there’s Peter, he heard John’s words, threw on his robe, his wool robe and dove in and started swimming to shore to be with Jesus. Have you ever gotten a wool sweater wet? It sucks up more water than a sponge.

     With every stroke, Peter’s robe was getting heavier and heavier and heavier, threatening to pull him down and drown him. Scripture doesn’t say so, but I think that might be a great allegory for what Peter’s life would have been like had Peter not experienced what was about to take place on the beach. The weight and burden of his denials would have drown him in self pity and guilt.

     But Peter made it to the beach. And it was there, at a charcoal fire, the same kind of fire over which Peter had denied Christ three time. And you know the words of Peter’s denial were still stuck in his head. And after the way he boasted “I will never desert you,” they must have tasted like so much charcoal ash in his mouth, bitter, acrid, humiliating. And the smell of that charcoal, still lingered about him. And here he was again, at a charcoal fire. But that morning, there on the beach, Peter experienced FORGIVENESS with a side of Grilled Fish and Bread.

     After breakfast, Peter and Jesus are talking and Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Not once but three times. “Do you love me?”

     Each time Peter answers, “Lord, you know I love you.” When he is asked a third time, Peter is deeply hurt that Jesus keeps asking the same question, as if there were ever any doubt.

     I think at that moment, the breeze shifted a bit and Peter got a good whiff of the charcoal fire and his mind shifted to that other charcoal fire, the charcoal fire of his denial. And that’s when it struck him what Jesus was doing. Three denials, three questions, “Do you love me?” Three opportunities to receive and experience FORGIVENESS.

     And the resurrection is what made that FORGIVENESS possible. Because of the cross and the empty tomb, Jesus was able to offer and give Peter FORGIVENESS, thus insuring Peter’s own Resurrection of faith and service.

     What profound change that must have been for Peter. Can you imagine the load of guilt he had carried around with him? Especially after that bold boast that he would lay down his life for Jesus. I can’t imagine carrying that load. It trapped and entombed him. But like Lazarus being called forth from the tomb, Peter is called forth from his tomb of guilt into a new resurrected life of faith with a simple question: “DO YOU LOVE ME?” Accompanied by a side order of Grilled Fish and Bread. That offer empowered his life and faith to the end of time.

     B. And it can do the same thing in our lives and faith, too. Let me tell you about Levi. When Levi was 14 he ran away from home. He stuck his thumb out and hitchhiked to another community. He was picked up by a trucker who took him to El Paso. There he got a day job picking cotton. After one day in the field picking cotton he realized he didn’t want to do that for the rest of his life. So, he collected his pay and stuck out his thumb again.

     This time he was picked up by a couple of marines headed to Los Angeles. They dropped him off and he checked into a flea bag motel. He stayed there two nights, that’s all the time he had the money for.    

     The guy at the counter told him he should check out the YMCA. So, he did. He went to the Y and they asked him all kinds of questions. They said they’d take him in but the rooms weren’t open yet. So, Levi went to a little diner across the way and spent his last few cents on a cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee. Then he headed back to the Y.

     When he got there, the police were waiting for him. The Y had reported him as a juvenile runaway. The police took him into custody and put him in the Youth Authority facility. The police then told Levi that they would call his parents and if they would send them plane fare, he would be sent home. If not, he would remain in the L.A. Youth facility until he was 18.

     Levi said he was worried that his parents wouldn’t want him back or that they couldn’t raise the money for a plane ticket. For seven long days, he sat in the room at the Youth Facility wondering what would happen. Late that 7th night, on officer came and got him. Without saying a word, they loaded him into a car and took him to the airport and put him on a plane to El Paso.

     When the plane landed, Levi was afraid to get off. His folks had driven over 250 miles to get there. He was afraid of the reception he faced, so he just stayed in his seat. The stewardess finally told him he HAD to get off. This was back in the days when you walked down a set of metal steps and then across the tarmac to get into the airport.

     Levi was slowly walking down those stairs. Somehow his folks had gotten out of the building and before he knew it they were running across the tarmac. His father came bounding up the steps and engulfed him in a hug. With his arms wrapped around him, he welcomed him home.

     Levi father forgave and restored Levi to his rightful place by wrapping him in his arms. Jesus forgave and restored Peter with Grilled Fish and Bread across a charcoal fire.


     A. That FRESH GRILLED FORGIVENESS continued with a single command, the same one given so many years before. One that you and I are called to answer as well. Jesus looked at Peter and said: FOLLOW ME.


     Today, I want you to experience that same FRESH GRILLED FORGIVENESS which Peter experienced. But the first thing we have to do to experience forgiveness is to come to Christ with a repentant and contrite heart. I want us to do that this morning through a Prayer of Confession and then through actually partaking of FISH AND BREAD.

     Would you please turn to page 12 of your hymnal to the CONFESSION AND PARDON

Merciful God, We confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, We have broken your law, We have rebelled against your love, We have not loved our neighbors, And we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen..

     This is the interactive but optional part of the service but I invite you to the charcoal fire of that last breakfast on the beach.

     Instruct how to get there. Serve BREAD AND FISH (Explain procedure, how to get there, FISH, BREAD, PRAYER, RETURN TO SEATS.)


     We have all had those Peter moments in our lives. We’ve all had those moments when we have denied Christ or denied being a Disciple of Christ. We’ve all had those same selfish moments. But the Good News is that, like Peter, we too can experience FORGIVENESS. In the Name of Jesus Christ, you are forgiven.

     The next time you smell a charcoal fire, the next time you have a piece of bread, the next time you eat FISH remember your FRESH GRILLED FORGIVENESS. You have been FORGIVEN and you have been CALLED TO FOLLOW HIM.


This is the Word of the Lord for this day.




1.    The Pastor’s Story File (Saratoga Press, P.O. Box 8, Platteville, CO, 80651; 970-785-2990), May 1986