These were not comfortable fireside experiences in their own homes and with friends. They were all uncomfortable fireside experiences because: Peter fell in a worldly atmosphere, Peter then needed restoration and Paul’s was an experience on an island after being shipwrecked.
Both Peter’s experiences were by a “bed of burning coals” (Strong 439 anthrakia, John 18:18 and 21:9).
Paul’s experience was by “a fire” of wood (Strong 4443 pura, Acts 28:2, 3)
PETER’S TWO FIRESIDE EXPERIENCES
They were both after activities in the flesh. The first fireside experience i.e. Peter’s denial of association with the Lord (Matt 26:69-74), but not denying the truth of His Person, had the following pathway that lead to this loss of testimony:
1.1. The first was a boastful determination instead of obedience and dependence on the Lord, “But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I” (Mark 14:29). The Lord prayed earnestly before the event: “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32) but confident and prayless Peter (“And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” Matt 26:40) wept bitterly after the event (Matt 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:62). This shows that humble prayer can save us from subsequent bitter weeping.
1.2. Peter also went in disobedience. Peter had asked the Lord: “Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now (i.e. into death and resurrection); but thou shalt follow me afterwards” (John 13:36). Peter’s self-confidence causing him to forget the Lord’s previous words: therefore went in disobedience, possibly his “But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end” (Matt 26:58).
1.3 The Lord intervened with his wild fleshly activity in defence of the Lord of “his cutting off the ear of Malchus” (John 18:10).
1.4 Peter’s forsook with the rest of the disciples when the Lord was arrested, “Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matt 26:56, also Mark 14:50). This did not seem to teach him his current weakness and make him dependant on the Lord to protect him when he went into the world’s domain at the first fireside experience.
1.5 Also the Lord Jesus said, in John 21:15-17, to Peter “Lovest thou me?” three times in His commissioning of him. This indicates that at that time Peter’s love for the Lord Jesus was low, despite his outward actions, and probably Peter did not realise it.
This leads to the questions: Am I confident and prayless? Am I being disobedient to God’s Word? Am I being marked by wild fleshly activity when I am seemingly defending the Lord’s interests? Have I forsaken the Lord in certain situations? Is my love for the Lord low despite my outward actions? Perhaps I might be heading for a fall?
The second fireside experience, i.e. the Lord’s public restoration of Peter (John 21:12-24) was after he had been privately restored to the Lord on day one of the resurrection (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5) and after the fishing trip initiated by Peter:
2.1. Through Peter’s failure he could possibly be thinking that there was no spiritual future for him. Therefore he could have decided to go back to his old employment as seen at: “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee” (John 21:3a).
2.2. Or perhaps the other reason for going fishing then was that they could not wait upon the Lord to fulfil His repeated command: “And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” (Matt 28:7) and “Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me” (Matt 28:10) and so they went fishing at Peter’s suggestion.
2.3. They did not pray for help “They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately” (John 21:3b).
2.4. Working without the Lord meant that, “and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3c).
2.5. They did not initially recognise when the Lord came to them, “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus” (John 21:4). However John recognised the Lord possibly because he probably remembered that this was a repeat of what happened in Luke 5:4-11.
2.6. Peter had to cover up a big display of the flesh: “Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher’s coat unto him, (for he was naked)” (John 21:7b).
2.7. Peter displayed a great affection for the Lord’s presence, probably as a result of his private restoration to the Lord, without acting responsibly with his brethren over what the Lord had given them: “and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes” (John 21:7c-8).
Are any of the above circumstances true of me?
When comparing the circumstances of the two fireside experiences we find:
3.1. The first fireside experience was in cold night time conditions “And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves” (John 18:18). However the second fireside experience, that was created by the Lord, was in the warmth of the morning sunshine, “But when the morning was now come” (John 21:4).
3.2. Both were round a “fire of coals” (John 18:18; 21:9).
3.3. At the first Peter provided for his own physical need by joining in what the world had made: “And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them” (Luke 22:55, also Mark 14:54). However at the second the Lord provided for Peter’s, and the others’, physical needs, “Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise” (John 21:13).
3.4. Concerning the first the Lord predicted Peter’s sad fall, “Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Matt 26:34, also Mark 14:30, Luke 22:34, John 14:38). Concerning the second the Lord predicted Peter’s death when he would glorify God, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me” (John 21:18-19).
3.5. At the first Peter did not anticipate what would happen and that lead to his fall (Proverbs 22:3 “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished” and repeated in Proverbs 27:12. Also “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not” (Job 33:14)) but with the second the Lord anticipated Peter’s need and future which lead to his restoration (John 21:15-19).
3.6. With the first the world took the initiative “Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee” (Matt 26:69) etc which lead to Peter’s denial (Matt 26:69-74). Nevertheless with the second the Lord took the initiative “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon …” (21:15) which lead to Peter’s commissioning. In all the other three Gospels Peter’s repentance and tears are recorded i.e. Matt 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:62. John is the only Gospel which does not record Peter’s repentance and tears and which records his complete restoration.
3.7. By the end of the first Peter had sinned on three separate occasions: 1. “Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus” (John 18:10); 2. “And they all forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50); 3. Peter denied the Lord three times (Matt 26:69-74). At the second was “This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead” (John 21:14). Peter’s sin was in contrast to the Lord’s grace.
3.8.1. At the first Peter denied the Lord three times:
3.8.a. Matt 26:69-70 “Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.”
3.8.b. Matt 26:71-72 “And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.”
3.8.c. Matt 26:73-74 “And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And he went out, and wept bitterly.”
At the second the Lord restored/recommissioned Peter three times:
3.8.d. John 21:15 “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.” Appropriate food would enable the lambs to know what to say. This is the opposite of Peter’s first response: “I know not what thou sayest.”
3.8.e. John 21:16 “He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed (to tend as a shepherd) my sheep.” As well as displaying care and so relieving them of worry, this attitude would help the sheep to know Christ better. This is the opposite to Peter’s second response, “And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.”
3.8.f. John 21.17-19 “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” This is so that the sheep could more deeply know the Lord. This is the opposite to Peter’s third response, “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man.”
3.9. With the first Peter was worried about people’s opinions and fell (Matt 26:69-74), but with the second, after receiving his personal commands from the Lord, he was concerned about what another believer’s activities should be and so still not get matters fully right. “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” (John 21:21). He did not seem to realise that as the Lord had commissioned him then the Lord could also commission others.
3.10. At the first, the world challenged Peter with the truth of association with Jesus which brought him to deny that association but with the second the Lord said that Peter was to feed people with the truth so that they would confess the Lord.
3.11. The world did not know Peter’s name, “Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.” (Matt 26:69; Mark 14:67). However the Lord did and used his pre-discipleship name “Simon, son of Jonas” three times (John 21:15-17) so that there could be no mistaking as to whom He was speaking. By using Peter’s pre-discipleship name the Lord was graciously emphasising that his recent behaviour belonged to his pre-discipleship days but should not now. “And he ordained twelve, … And Simon he surnamed Peter” (Mark 3:14, 16).
3.12. The first was a man-made situation which lead to his denial in front of a disciple and some unbelievers, “But Peter stood at the door without. Then went out that other disciple, which was known unto the high priest, and spake unto her that kept the door, and brought in Peter” (John 18:16). However with the second it was a God-made situation which lead to Peter’s commissioning in front of six other disciples (John 21:2) and the angels (“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” Ephesians 3:10). This would have shown the other disciple who heard Peter’s denials, if he was John, something further of the manifold grace of God. As all the disciples, “… forsook him, and fled” (Mark 14:50) they should also have been feeling something of the Lord’s great grace to them as well.
3.13. In the first Peter had one disciple and some from the world around him but in the second there was the Lord and a number of the disciples around him. The Lord did not commission Peter while he was in the world.
3.14. With the first the Lord was gracious in just looking on Peter, “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” (Luke 22:61) and at the second the Lord was gracious with the draught of fishes (John 21:6) and speaking to Peter for his restoration (John 21:15-17).
3.15. At the first the Lord Jesus just looked on Peter and it brought to him brokenness but at the second the Lord Jesus spoke to him and that brought him to fruitfulness.
3.16. At the end of the first Peter could well have thought that his spiritual future had been lost, “And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Matt 26:75, also Luke 22:62) but at the second the Lord restored hope to Peter by speaking of his future (John 21:18).
3.17. During the whole of the first Peter did not glorify God (Matt 26:69-74) but at the second Peter was told that he would glorify God at the end of his life (John 21:19) and the Acts c1-15 and 1 & 2 Peter show that he did glorify God during his life as well.
3.18. At the first Peter remembered the one word of the Lord “how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (Luke 22:61) which quickly happened after the Lord said it. At the second Peter was given two commands and a promise from the Lord to remember over the rest of his lifetime:
1st John 21:15-17 “Feed my lambs/sheep and tend as a shepherd my sheep”.
2nd 21:18-19 “… v19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me” i.e. you will glorify God in your death and follow Me. An implication of that is that he would go on for God during all the rest of his life.
3rd 21:21-22 “Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me” i.e. never mind what this man is doing, you follow Me.
3.19. At the first “And Peter went out …” of “the high priest’s house” (Luke 22:54) but with the second Peter followed the Lord, “Jesus saith unto him, … follow thou Me” (John 21:22).
3.20. The first ended with Peter “weeping bitterly” (Matt 26:75, also Luke 22:62) but while we are not told about Peter’s reaction to the second it was no doubt a humble and an amazed rejoicing.
PAUL ONLY HAD ONE FIRESIDE EXPERIENCE.
4.1. Paul’s fireside experience happened at the end of his public life (Acts 28:2-6 “And the barbarous people shewed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire, and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god”). However Peter’s was immediately before the cross happened and the second not too long afterwards and before his public life again starting at Acts c1.
4.2. Paul’s experience was after a physically hard time from the shipwreck (Acts 27) but Peter’s first experience was after a physically easier but a tiring and fearful time, i.e. (1) the remembrance of the Lord, sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane: “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” (Matt 26:40), (2) the shock of the soldiers coming to take away the Lord Jesus and (3) all the disciples fleeing from Him: “But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matt 26:56).
4.3. Paul’s experience was the provision of God through His over ruling in the sea (Acts 27:39-44) and the provision given by lost souls (28:1-10) which resulted in their natural and no doubt spiritual blessing. In his first experience Peter personally used the world’s available resources to his spiritual fall.
4.4. Paul’s experience was the result of worldy wisdom going wrong: “Nevertheless the centurion believed the master and the owner of the ship, more than those things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 27:11) but Peter’s first experience was the result of personal comfort leading to what was wrong.
4.5. Paul’s experience was unexpected and so they gathered wood for the fire: “And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks” (Acts 28:3) but Peter’s first experience was expected by the world and so there already was a fire of coals: “And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves” (John 18:18).
4.6. Both Paul’s: (“And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm” Acts 28:5) and Peter’s first experience: (“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat” (Luke 22:31) had devilish involvement.
4.7. Both Paul’s, and Peter’s first, experiences were unexpected by them but the results were so different.
4.8. Paul was a blessing through this experience but Peter was devastated by his first experience but restored by his second.
4.9. Paul was a temporal, and no doubt a spiritual blessing, both:
4.9.a Before the fireside incident: “Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off” (Acts 27:31-32) and “And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing” (27:33).
4.9.b And at: “And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire,” (28:3) “Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god” (28:6).
4.9.c And after the fireside incident: “And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed” (28:8-9). Also his preaching, teaching and advice were a great blessing to many.
Peter was a bad testimony at his first fireside experience but was made a tremendous blessing after his second (Acts c1-15, 1 & 2 Peter) through his preaching, teaching and advice.
4.10. Both Paul and Peter wrote God’s word by the power of the Holy Spirit which has had good effect on many for centuries to come.
So if you have had a fall God can restore you and make you a further blessing but the path will not necessarily be easy but it is possible. Both Paul’s and Peter’s experiences were due to the grace, i.e. unmerited favour, of God.
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9).
You can be restored to be a blessing and what God wants you to be.