I just had a great meditation this morning on a question a friend asked related to why Peter wrapped his garments around himself before he jumped in the water as he swam to Jesus at the end of John. Because, as she said, “Everything in the Bible is there for a reason. Every word.” And she’s right. John included that detail for a reason.
It is the last chapter. Peter has denied Jesus. In his rejection, he now pulls empty nets out of the water, fishing in the darkness. Then Jesus arrives at dawn and asks him to cast his nets one more time. And they fill and fill and fill. Now, let’s see where this goes:
Jesus watches Peter. As he watches you. He speaks to Peter. As he speaks to you. Then he watches Peter gather his garments and jump in the water and swim to shore. What an act of love! Of devotion! What a beautiful act of desiring only Jesus!
But then why doesn’t the scene on shore begin with a soggy hug and the joyous tears of a restored relationship?
Because of that garment.
The scene on shore begins as it must: Jesus teaches Peter. He tells Peter to go help bring the fish to shore. He then sits around a fire and teaches Peter about love. Because it is critical. It is everything. Because Jesus sees that Peter still has not learned what love is. And he must. He must . He must! Or it is all for naught!
“But, you know I love you! Right?” says Peter.
But then the teacher:
“See, Peter, you think love is like wanting; like desire; or devotion. But to ‘want’ me—to ‘want’ anything—to ‘want’…means you don’t have it. It is to ‘want’ for something—to be lacking. So it is something you must get. You must grab. Like, ‘I love breakfast.’ Which is, ‘I want breakfast. I am wanting…breakfast.’ It is a desire for something you are lacking. But like the tree of life, I am the opposite of desire. I exist outside of wanting. I am fulfillment.
See, you already have me. You have always had me.
Out there, in the darkness, facing the unknown, I spoke and you listened. You responded. And when you responded, I revealed abundance. You went to fish, right? You went for a purpose, right? Well, I showed you ultimate fulfillment of your purpose—of meaning. And remember, Peter, it happened precisely when you trusted a voice from the unknown.
And then, when I revealed what lies beneath what you can see, I watched. I watched your response. And what did you do? As soon as you knew it was me, you "thought" you knew what to do. You turned from that purpose; you turned from the responsibility that emerged as a result of your miraculous power to extract meaning. You turned from it and gathered your garments, and wanted me because you thought that was love. You thought that was what I ‘wanted.’
But wanting me is not loving me. I am teaching you the answer to ‘Do you love me?’ because you don't know. The answer is: ‘feed my sheep.’ Like the line I came from—David’s line--the line of the shepherd boy who knew that to fulfill his purpose, his father’s will, was the same as loving his father; and in that kind of loving is where meaning is found; is where strength is found; is where victory is found; is where dancing with joy is found; is where everything is found--as he was; so I am; and so you must be; like the boy with the heart of God. Loving me, immature spirit, is not getting me. It is not getting what you want and going where you want and gathering you garments, and then sitting at my feet; while the purpose and meaning I showed you sinks in the water for others to bear. If you love me…fulfill your purpose! I will show you abundant meaning and purpose if you listen. If you follow, mature spirit, if you will be lead, then I will reveal a miracle of meaning with which to offset the suffering and insufficiencies of the world. If you listen, if you respond, I will show you how to save the world—how to love me. And it absolutely exists outside of what you want."
Are you swimming towards Jesus while responsibilities that were revealed to you; that you know are full of life and life-giving; are left sinking behind? Put the garments back down. Go. Grab the nets, full to bursting with life. Help bring them to shore. And let’s eat breakfast.