What does the Apostle Peter's power breakfast with Jesus teach us about our own need for the gospel?
“When real business needs to get done in this town, many area power brokers skip the evening cocktails, instead choosing to hash things out over eggs, bacon, and endless cups of fresh brewed coffee. Refining political and financial strategies are par for the course at these early morning gatherings.” - Ross Perkins, D.C. Eater
The COVID pandemic has done much to disrupt the lives of those serving in Washington, especially the popular hobby of personal networking. The power breakfast (see also the power lunch, power coffee, and after-work power happy hour) is an integral part of life in Washington. We show up ready to put our best foot forward, make an influential connection, develop a plan, and advance an agenda.
The power breakfast also exposes a point of tension for those following Christ and an opening for the gospel. Although we are called to serve, we constantly feel the lure of being served. The power breakfast becomes an opportunity for us to leverage and promote ourselves.
Now, imagine showing up to a power breakfast filled with humiliation and shame. You are about to sit down with someone you have utterly failed. Despite spending the past three years trying to impress your companion, you recently abandoned them when they were in crisis. What’s more, everyone seated at the table knows that you have let your leader down.
John 21 recounts the scene where the disciples have spent the night fishing with no success. As morning breaks, the resurrected Jesus calls out to them to cast their net on the other side of the boat resulting in a miraculous catch and confirms the identity of the man on the shore to the weary fisherman.
Peter, being Peter, leaps into the water and swims to meet the risen Lord, leaving his companions to row back to shore, dragging a heavy net filled with fish. Once on the shore, Jesus invites them to breakfast.
Peter, being Peter, grabs the entire haul of 153 large fish by himself and carries it to the fire, ready for the beginning of this Gospel-centered power breakfast.
John mentions that this is the third time the Lord has appeared to the disciples. But this meeting is different. This time it is breakfast,a time for conversation and community. Yet, Peter’s heart must have been in turmoil.
Just days before, Peter was exposed as a pretender. Despite his efforts to prove that he was the best wingman ever and was rightly the one upon whom Jesus would build his church, Peter, being Peter, denied his Savior three times just as Jesus had predicted in the presence of the disciples. Now Peter is at a power breakfast filled with humiliation and shame. Perhaps he was expecting to be publicly rebuked by Jesus just to make his point. However, what he received is a testimony to our need for the gospel and Jesus’ eagerness to make it available.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Jesus used this breakfast to declare to Peter the power of the gospel. He was not rejecting him; He was inviting him into a gospel-centered relationship. When Jesus initially asked Peter to follow Him, He knew who Peter was and saw through all his attempts to impress. He knew that Peter was insecure, in need of affirmation, and longed for someone to love him without reservation. Jesus was simply waiting for Peter to get to the end of himself.
The power breakfast we need is one where we come to Christ each morning, mindful of our shortcomings, secure in our redemption, and convinced Jesus calls us to proclaim the excellencies of His kingdom despite our weakness.
Yet, we remain a work in progress. A fact that is made clear when Peter, being Peter, asks a follow-up question to Jesus,
When Peter saw him [John], he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”
Who’s ready for breakfast?
Rev. Michael Langer is the Associate Director for the D.C. ministry.