As that breakfast of smoked mullet and fresh bread came to an end, I bet you could cut the tension around that charcoal fire with a knife. John has set us up for a highly flammable interaction between Jesus and Peter over the course of the last few chapters. Everybody remembers the last time Peter found himself by a charcoal fire. It was the night of Jesus’ arrest, and Peter was standing in the courtyard of the high priest, warming himself and denying three times that he even knew Jesus, let alone was one of his disciples.
Peter heard the news that the tomb was empty from Mary Magdalene and took off running to see for himself. He lost the race, but was still the first to actually step foot in the tomb. He saw the burial shroud laying folded at the foot. He took note that the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was laying separately. Certainly, he knew that Jesus’ body had not been stolen with haste, but unlike the Disciple whom Jesus loved, John gives no indication that Peter was ready to accept the reality of the resurrection. Instead, Peter went home, presumably to sort it all out in his head.
Now, here we are, more than a week later. Peter swam to shore with haste, eager to see Jesus again. Jesus had offered him breakfast, and next came the silence. Awkward. Painful. Tense. Silence. And then, Jesus spoke a name, “Simon.” It was a familiar name: the one given to him at birth; but a name he hadn’t heard in a while. Since that first encounter with Jesus three years ago, Simon had been called Peter. At least that’s how the story goes in John’s Gospel. For three years he had been the Peter, but today he was back to Simon son of John.
Etymologically, he had gone from “The Rock” to “listen carefully, son of God’s graciousness.” If things hadn’t been weird before, they certainly were now. Simon, come Peter, now Simon again clearly needed to listen to the graciousness of God. He would be restored to right relationship (sort of, more on that tomorrow), but first, he needed to pay attention to the graciousness of God. Apparently he didn’t get it the first time. Or the second. But on the third go round, Jesus offers Simon the same welcome he had given Philip all those years ago: the same word that he offered to all the sheep who heard his voice.
From Simon to Peter and back again, Jesus was ready to restore his denying disciple, but as we’ll see tomorrow, I’m not sure Peter was quite ready to be restored.