Towards the end of John’s Gospel, the disciple Peter finds himself in two similar situations, but with two different attitudes. For me, this is one the great dualities in the Gospels, and is an amazing example of the transformative power of Christ.
In John 18:15-18, Peter is huddled around a fire outside the court of the High Priest. Jesus has been dragged inside to face the authorities, in what is the beginning of his long journey to the cross. As he warms his hands by the fire, shrouded by darkness, nervously waiting news of what has happened to Jesus, Peter is asked a question by a servant girl.
“You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” (v.17)
I’ve no idea as to why Peter responds by saying “I am not.” After all, it was only Peter and one other disciple that followed Jesus to the court after Judas betrayed him. Peter clearly is devoted and wants to be at Jesus’ side. But when questioned by someone, he denies Christ. Maybe he was scared, worried, nervous that he would be punished as well. Whatever the reason Peter, as Jesus predicted he would, denied Jesus.
The next time Peter is by a fire, Jesus has been crucified. He has risen and appeared to his disciples. Peter and the disciples are out fishing, and Jesus calls them back. On the beach is a fire (John 21:9). Jesus, having provided the disciples with fish to catch, shares breakfast with them. And he then turns to Peter.
By a fire, this time in the light of day, Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me more than these?” (21:15). Peter’s response could not be more different: “Yes Lord; you know that I love you.”
The difference between Peter now and Peter previously is that he has been in the presence of the resurrected Christ. That is what transformed him.
And that same power that transformed Peter transforms us as well.