"If I can just touch the water," I said to our tour guide Miriam.  "I'll be the happiest of campers."

 

The water I was talking about was the Sea of Galilee. I'd watched the sun rise over it, seen its mountains blush in the evening light, enjoyed a boat ride over its waves, and been to the "Man of Galilee Museum" where a 2,000-year-old fisherman's boat is displayed and wondered over.

 

But I hadn't touched the water He'd walked upon ... hadn't felt its coolness on the heat of my skin or taken a souvenir from the very place where Peter fished. If I could just do this one thing, just this one last thing ….

 

"If I can just touch the water," I said to our tour guide Miriam.  "I'll be the happiest of campers."

 

The water I was talking about was the Sea of Galilee. I'd watched the sun rise over it, seen its mountains blush in the evening light, enjoyed a boat ride over its waves, and been to the "Man of Galilee Museum" where a 2,000-year-old fisherman's boat is displayed and wondered over.

 

But I hadn't touched the water He'd walked upon ... hadn't felt its coolness on the heat of my skin or taken a souvenir from the very place where Peter fished. If I could just do this one thing, just this one last thing ….

 

Biblical History

 

In the past few articles, we've called him Impetuous Pete. The disciple Jesus called from a career of fishing with his younger brother, Andrew. The disciple named Simon Bar-Jona (son of Jona), but called Petros (Peter; the rock) by the Christ.

 

This was an impressive name for a man who characteristically did things on the whim. Even his rush from fishing to discipleship was spur of the moment. Scriptures do not say, "And when Jesus called him, Peter went home, thought about it, prayed about it, talked to a dozen friends about it, conferred with his wife over it." Rather, the Bible records, "At once they [Peter and Andrew] left their nets and followed him." (Matthew 4:20)

 

"Impetuous Pete" scenes abound in the Bible, but they weren't always about what Peter did. Sometime they were about what Peter said.  When we read them, we are often left shaking our heads going, "Peter, Peter, Peter."

 

With all the foot-in-mouth disease Peter seemed to be dying from, still many times, Jesus poured His grace upon him. Peter was one of the three who observed the raising of Jarius's daughter, witnessed the transfiguration, and were called to pray in Gethsemane (a task he and James and John failed at). 

 

This singling out may have led to a somewhat cocky attitude from the already rough-and-tumbly Galilean. And with all the failings of this man, there is still one scene we can scarcely forget, and it took place in the Upper Room. Jesus told the disciples "this very night you will all fall away."

 

Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."

 

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."

 

But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." (Excerpt, Matthew 26: 31-35)

 

The other disciples agreed with Peter, but only Peter was destined to deny.  That denial came after his disobedience to what Jesus suggested just after His arrest. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go," Jesus said to the soldiers in John 18:8. In other words, take a clue, guys. Leave and leave now!

 

But Peter followed Jesus to the house of the high priest, hanging out in the courtyard, warming himself by a fire. Within about a two hour period, as Jesus was being interrogated, Peter denied being one of His disciples not once, not twice, but as Jesus said, three times.

 

He must have had a clear shot of the Messiah standing before his accusers, because Luke tells us that when the rooster crowed, "Jesus turned and looked straight at Peter." (Luke 22:61)

 

Can you imagine what emotional messages must have been expressed with their eyes? Jesus' might have read:  "Peter, my beloved. Please believe what I say to you."

 

Peter's might have read:  "My sweet Lord. How I have disgraced you!"

 

After Jesus' resurrection, an angel of the Lord told the women who stood in the empty tomb to go tell the disciples -- specifically Peter -- that Jesus had risen from the dead.

 

And for a while, the Savior and his disciples were together again, with Jesus appearing in various places to many people. But with each moment, Peter must have felt awful, and probably wrestled with his own calling, because according to John 21, he decided to go back to fishing, taking Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two other disciples with him into the Sea of Galilee.

 

But they caught nothing.

 

The scripture reads like this: Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some."

 

When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.

 

When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."

 

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. (John 21)

 

Falling In

 

As I stood back several yards from the shoreline, the warm breeze slipping through my hair, I placed my hands on my hips and imagined Jesus as He stood there, watching the helpless, hapless disciples attempting to go backward rather than forward in their lives and calling.   

 

"Peter, do you love me more than these?"  Jesus asked Peter after they'd finished eating, meaning "do you love me more than the fish?" The word Jesus used was "agapao" and is meant to ask, "Peter, does this satisfy you or do I?"

 

In essence, Peter answered, "You're my friend."

 

A second time, Jesus asked, "Do you agapao me?" but without asking for a comparison of affection. Again Peter answered, "You're my friend." One more time, a third time, Jesus asked the question, this time saying, "Peter, do you love me as a friend?" to which Peter replied, "Lord, you know all things; you know I love you."

 

Such grace. Such restoration. And, according to tradition, it happened in this very spot, in this place where a church has been built around a giant rock. As I stepped up to the shoreline, and placed my palm against the clear blue water, I thought back to a moment many years ago when I said to the Lord, "I yield all of me to all of You. I want everything you have to give." Such grace. Such restoration. 

 

Peter left the sea to give the first sermon, to tell the Gospel story to innumerable men and women, and to die without fear as a martyr upon a Roman cross. I left with a handful of seashells, and a call to come back to the United States to tell everyone who would listen what I learned when I fell into the Bible.

 

Final Note

 

"If you go to Israel once, you will want to go back again and again." I'd heard these words as many times as I'd heard, "You're going where?" I would nod and say, "That's what they tell me." But inside I was thinking: No, no. If I go once, I'll be satisfied.

 

Allow me to conclude these articles with a final note. One trip to Israel will never ever be enough. If I were to be allowed the privilege of an annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land, still it wouldn't be enough. 

 

Something happens to you when you're there. You hear God's heartbeat ... you feel His breath. You know beyond all other knowledge that you've been called home ... and have arrived.

 

I have shed homesick tears with the writing of each of these articles. I find myself longing for a people whom God called "His inheritance."  As I daily read my Bible, I am blessed with a deeper sense of the land, of the characters, of the desire God has always had for His children to draw close to Him -- to reach for His heart -- to stroke His face. 

 

And I pray, sincerely pray, that everyone who reads my words about Israel, will someway, somehow, some day make the trip to discover what I now know -- and will, like me, fall into the Bible, and more in love with God than they ever knew they could be.

 

Photo by Dana Kempler. Eva Marie Everson is the author of Shadow of Dreams & Summon the Shadows and an award-winning national speaker.  She can be contacted for comments or for speaking engagement bookings at Bridegroomsbride@aol.com

 

 

Other Articles in This Series:
Falling Into The Bible: The Garden Tomb
Falling Into The Bible: The Chapel At The Fifth Station
Falling Into The Bible, Part 5: The Sea of Galilee
Ruth: Gleaning in the the Fields of Jesus
Falling into the Bible 3 -- Mt. Tabor; Above All, Jesus!

Falling Into The Bible, Part 2: Mary's Well

Falling into the Bible: The Ancient City of Hazor