Ashlie Miller: Jesus remembers and restores
Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 6, 2023
If you ever make a Christian pilgrimage to Israel, be sure to visit the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter in Tabgha, Israel, on the Sea of Galilee. You will see a sculpture of Jesus telling Peter to “feed my sheep” – one of my favorite encounters Jesus had with a disciple from John 21.
Peter denied Christ three times before Jesus died. Peter protested when, knowing everything, Jesus foretold what would happen. In John 21, however, a truly sensational restoration occurs. Three times, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” much to Peter’s exasperation, making an opportunity for complete restoration.
Jesus did not stop there in restoring Peter. Sensory experiences heighten our memories – tastes, sights, smells, sounds, and the tangible. Perhaps Jesus set up this encounter to remind Peter of beautiful discipleship moments and reclaim other sensory memories.
In Luke 5, after an unsuccessful day of fishing, Jesus says in an early encounter with them, “Cast your nets,” and the disciples, including Peter, haul in a bountiful catch with a net breaking in abundance. Days after the resurrection, after another miserable fishing attempt, Jesus, unrecognized by them, encourages them to cast their net, resulting in another plentiful catch.
Peter was that bold disciple who attempted to walk on water with Jesus (Matthew 14) but failed miserably when his eyes were off Jesus and upon his surroundings. In this John passage, Peter throws himself into the water, not for a miraculous moment, but to get to Jesus when he recognizes this stranger. Water never felt so refreshing!
The first call to the Peter in Luke 5 comes with a “follow me” command; in this later encounter, Jesus directly tells him again to follow him. What a lovely sound – the voice of your Shepherd beckoning you to come, even after you have failed Him!
In John 6, the disciples witnessed the miracle of feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Now, after the resurrection of Jesus, He feeds Peter fish along with bread – imagine receiving bread from The Bread of Life!
What wonderful memories to relive in a new way, but I wonder if the smell of a charcoal fire was associated with Peter’s most painful memory. The night he betrayed his Lord, Peter was on the outskirts, warming himself by a fire (John 18:18). Try as he may to warm his body, his heart remained cold. Repeatedly, Peter said, “I do not know Him,” when he was directly asked about his relationship with Jesus. I wonder how hard he worked to wash the charcoal scent from his clothing and hair. It is the type of scent that lingers and latches onto you. Jesus knew that. I believe He had that charcoal fire going to cook for Peter’s breakfast in this new encounter on the shore, perhaps to give him a sweet aroma to cherish instead of a stench of sadness and regret.
Peter could now have glorious memories of his final earthly days with Jesus – memories accompanied by sights, sounds, smells, and tastes to last a lifetime. Peter had a bad moment, not a bad heart, but it required a full restoration.
Jesus is in the restoring business. He knows your past and the memories that hurt you the most or make you feel like you could never be used by Him. Do not fear. He is gentle and kind. He may be setting up events to remind you of the good memories and repair the painful ones. He invites you today! Will you allow Him to do it?
Ashlie Miller and her husband, pastor of Grace Covenant Church in South End Charlotte, grew up in China Grove and are raising their family of five children in Concord.