Years ago while on vacation, I woke up one morning, took my Bible, grabbed my breakfast, and went outside on the back porch. I wanted to enjoy the breeze and the rustling of the pine trees. As I munched my cereal and read, a couple began to play tennis on the nearby court. Their play was awful! The harder they tried, the worse they played. Eventually, they went to a corner of the court, drank some water, talked a bit, then shifted over one court and started playing considerably better.

What made the difference in their play? Was there less wind to influence their shots? Was the sun now at a better angle? Was the court surface better than the previous court?

I sure couldn't see any difference in conditions. I chalked up their improved play to their fresh start. The change in courts was more symbol than substance. This couple had decided they would let the bad play on the previous court die there. They decided they would start fresh. It worked.

Wouldn't life be better if we could have a fresh start after making a mess of things?

If you know the good news of Jesus, you know our Lord is the Master of fresh starts. His sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection victory over sin, death, and hell are the foundation for us to have a fresh start in our lives. Jesus' apostle, John, described it this way:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)

Notice that John promised us much more than forgiveness; he promised us forgiveness and purification! If we are honest and transparent about our failures, he forgives and removes our sin. Our Lord gives us a fresh, new, clean, start on life! Jesus paid the cost for us to have this fresh start through his atoning sacrifice (1 John 2:1-2).

How could John know this?

How could he be so sure?

John had seen Jesus give Peter that gift on a fishing trip. That trip occurred after Jesus' resurrection from the dead. He had begun to show himself to his followers to prove to them he was alive (1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Acts 1:1-3). His apostles, however, were not quite sure what to do with themselves. One day, Peter turned to some of his buddies (Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John, and two other disciples — John 21:2) and said, "I'm going fishing." His buddies went with him. Their fishing trip provided Jesus an opportunity to teach them about love, forgiveness, and fresh starts.

Reminiscent of a fishing trip over three years earlier, Peter and his friends fished all night and didn't catch a thing (John 21:3; Luke 5:5). On this occasion, Jesus called to them from the shore, but his disciples didn't recognize him. The Lord told them to throw their nets on the right side of the boat, and they did. Like that previous time, they caught so many fish they could barely haul them all into the boat (John 21:6; Luke 5:6-7). With the beloved disciple's help, Peter recognized that the person on the shore must be Jesus, the one who had made a similar miracle happen at the beginning of his ministry. So, Peter jumped out of the boat and swam ashore to greet his resurrected Lord (John 21:7).

The other disciples hauled the fish to shore and joined Jesus and Peter on the beach. Over a breakfast of fish, the Lord gently, but consistently, challenged Peter about his arrogance and failure on the night he denied his Lord. Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" He bluntly reminded Peter of his bragging overstatement that if the other apostles turned away from the Lord, he wouldn't (John 13:27; Mark 14:29). Around this breakfast cookout fire and before the disciples Peter had bragged and then failed, Jesus asked Peter THREE times, "Do you love me more than these?" (John 21:15).

Hmm! And Peter had denied his Lord THREE times! Peter got the message:

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the THIRD time, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17 Emphasis added.).

Jesus confronted Peter with his failure in front of the people who knew him and his failure, best. Then — and this is the essential part for you and me — the resurrected Jesus called Peter back to leadership and ministry... THREE times:

Jesus provided this second miraculous catch of fish to give him a fresh start rooted in forgiveness and grace.
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs.… Take care of my sheep.… Take care of my sheep" (John 21:15-17).

Jesus had provided Peter and his friends a miraculous catch of fish earlier so that he could call them to be his apostles (Luke 5:1-11). Now, after Peter's failure, Jesus provided a second miraculous catch of fish to give him a fresh start rooted in forgiveness and grace. Jesus didn't just forgive Peter's sin, but he also removed it from him so that he could start new.

Peter's breakfast on the beach with Jesus is good news for us. Peter's failure wasn't final. The Lord led him to confront his sin and then called him back to ministry. He longs to bless us with a similar restoration no matter our personal failures. The love of Jesus demonstrated at the cross provides forgiveness for us. The empty tomb and the gift of the Holy Spirit guarantee us a fresh start at life and ministry. All that's left for us is to leave that past behind and follow his call.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:… God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

Special thanks for the use of images related to Jesus' ministry from The Lumo Project and Free Bible Images for use on this week's post in "The Jesus Window"!