Peter’s life is one, really, of emptiness and filling: empty nets, empty self, empty tomb. An empty net is a sign of professional failure and for a successful Galilean merchant, there was no greater sign of loss than an empty net. An empty net meant nothing to sell and trade. It meant an empty wallet, empty stomachs, and an empty house. Jesus entered Peter’s life, at the very beginning of this call to ministry and at the very end, filling Peter’s empty nets.
But this was only the smallest way Christ would fill the empty places in Peter’s life. Peter’s soul, that day on the beach, was also bereft. He had failed Jesus in the worst possible way in the worst moments. The news of the resurrection was both bitter and sweet. Sweet in that the one he loved was not held down by Roman nails and the devil’s schemes. Bitter in that Peter would have to face the friend he betrayed. Yet it was another empty place—a borrowed tomb outside the city walls—that healed the shame in this disciple’s soul. For Jesus, in walking out of that grave, walked into victory over sin, the sin that corrupts hearts and makes proud men cowards. Stripped of his self-assurance, bereft of confidence, shorn of pride, Peter could now be filled with a different kind of power, the one that saw him stand up to religious bullies, preach the gospel to thousands, and one day hang upside down for the same Lord he had earlier betrayed.
What gave Peter this courage? That look from Jesus in Jesus’ moment of agony. The same kind of salvation that gives us courage. Years later, as an aging Apostle, he’d write: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
It is not until our nets our empty, until all of the self-saving, self-justifying, self-satisfying religion is gone and we are absolutely as low as we can go, that Jesus arrives and fills us with supernatural grace to let His life be lived through us.
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