An advertising campaign for Walt Disney World from a few years ago capitalized on the popularity of professional football, asking the winning quarterback of the year’s biggest game “You’ve just won the Super Bowl: what are you going to do now?” to which he would gleefully respond “I’m going to Disney World!”
Should the same commercial interests be applied to the scene in John 20 and 21, it might go something like this, with considerably different effect:
“Peter, you’ve just seen and heard the risen Lord: what are you going to do now?”
“I’m going fishing!”
At this point, Jesus has died, risen from the dead, and appeared to his disciples with a commission.
Due to the proximity of this episode to the appearance of Jesus to the disciples, some say that this return to normal life represented an apostasy, or falling away, on the part of the disciples. But at this time, the Spirit had not fallen on them with power, as would happen at Pentecost. And Jesus had something else to teach them.
Peter was known for his bold and impetuous nature. He scolded Jesus for talking about his impending death. He stepped out of the boat and walked on water (briefly). He boldly proclaimed that he would follow Jesus to his death. He hacked the servant’s ear off in the garden. He was the first to look into the empty tomb.
Always the man of action, Peter was loath to wait around doing nothing, and went fishing instead. A stranger opined about fishing strategy from the peanut gallery, and when that advice led to great success, John identified the stranger as Jesus. When he heard that it was the Lord, Peter “threw himself into the sea” (John 21:7). It’s difficult to imagine Peter executing a perfect swan dive on this occasion; he’s more of the canonball or bellyflop kind of guy.
The benefits of Peter’s spontaneous saturation aren’t readily apparent, and we might be tempted to attribute it to Peter’s lack of impulse control (he had only “heard” that it was Jesus, after all).
But it might be more accurate to say that Peter became accutely aware of his proximity to the risen Lord, and threw caution to the wind.
How many of us, in the name of prudence and caution, resist all impulse to delight in Jesus? How many of us have lost the sense of the proximity to Jesus? For how many of us does our mission and ministry seem dull in comparison?
We should perhaps ask ourselves each day “You’ve just been reminded that the Lord has risen from the dead: what are you going to do now?” and respond “I’m going to follow Jesus!”