21:7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”
A fire of coals. When Peter saw it, it must have caused him to hesitate. There was no grand reunion. There was no throwing himself at Jesus' feet as he had done 3 years earlier. In fact even though Peter arrives first at the fire made with coals his arrival is not mentioned at all.
Do you remember the fire made with coals? The last time Peter was at a coal fire he was standing with the enemies of Christ while He hung on a cross swearing to them that he never knew the man.
Seems almost poetically cruel. Surely Jesus could have used wood for the fire but He did not. Why? I believe the answer has three parts.
1, To truly heal and grow we must begin at the root of the problem. Denial is easy at first but the thing denied is like a cloud overhead or the proverbial elephant in the room. To truly move on from a place of pain the source of that pain must be dealt with completely. The source of Peter's guilt and shame was the events that transpired around a coal fire. He had to face that and Jesus knew it. He loves us enough to walk us through our pain rather than slap a band-aid over it and pretend it doesn't exist.
2, There is another significant place where there is a coal fire. The altar in the temple is fueled by a coal fire. It is the epicenter of forgiveness. It the place where every guilty man comes to confess and seek the release from his guilt and shame.
3, The 3rd coal fire which I believe applies in this case is in Isaiah 54:16 where God declares that the blacksmith uses a coal fire to make whatever instrument he chooses.
It is true Peter has done wrong. He must face it. It is also true God has a solution. It is also true God has a purpose for Peter still. The fire of his pain, shame, guilt and fear coupled with the skill of the Blacksmith will fashion him into a weapon for the Kingdom.
There is one final common reference to coals of fire in the Bible. They are used symbolically to purify. Jesus is surgically operating on Peter one step at a time, reenacting his original call, his subsequent fall, and about to make another call.
Peter is not alone in his journey. I'm thankful for the love of a relentless God who deals with every dark and shameful corner of my life and never allows my lack to limit His plans for me.
That's why He calls it Good News.