A Charcoal Fire
By Russell McKinney
”Now the slaves and the officers were standing there, having made a charcoal fire, for it was cold and they were warming themselves; and Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.” (John 18:18, N.A.S.V.)
On the night of Christ’s arrest, Peter denied even knowing Him. To make matters worse, Peter spoke three such denials, just as Jesus had foretold, he would. And where did Peter speak those three denials? He spoke them while he was warming himself in front of a fire in the outer courtyard of the home of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest. At the time, Jesus was being tried by Caiaphas and the other members of the Jewish Sanhedrin inside the house.
John’s gospel uses a highly specific Greek word, anthrakia, to describe that fire by which Peter warmed himself. Some Bible translations translate anthrakia as “a fire of coals” but other translations more precisely render it “a charcoal fire.” So, Peter denied Jesus three times while standing before a charcoal fire.
Now let’s fast forward to a morning more than a week after Christ’s resurrection. Peter and some of the rest of the chosen 12 have made their way north from Jerusalem to Galilee. They have done so in obedience to Christ’s word that He will meet them there (Matthew 26:32; 28:7; Mark 16:7). While they are waiting for the resurrected Jesus to appear to them, the group acquires a small fishing boat and goes fishing one night on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-3). But they fish all night and catch nothing.
The next day, just as the morning sun is beginning to illuminate the scene, the group looks toward shore and sees a figure standing on the beach. The figure shouts to them, “Have you caught any fish?” Bluntly, the answer is sent back, “No.” Then the figure shouts, “Cast your net on the right side of the boat, and you will catch some fish.” The word of advice is followed, and the net brings up 153 large fish. Such a haul would normally tear a net, but this net handles the job with no problem.
It’s at this point that Peter figures out who the man on the beach is. After all, Peter has had this same type of experience once before in his fishing career (Luke 5:1-11). Impulsively, he jumps into the water and swims 100 yards to shore ahead of his friends, who are left to bring in the boat and the fish. And when they all get to the beach, what do they find? They find that Jesus has built a fire and is cooking Himself some fish. The men then accept Christ’s invitation to a breakfast of fish and bread and proceed to cook some of the fish they’ve just caught.
Once breakfast is done, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Simon (Peter’s name before Jesus had renamed him), son of John, do you love Me?” And three times Peter gives the response, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.” There you go, Peter. Consider your three denials forgiven and yourself restored to the ministry.
You say, “Boy, what a great story.” Yes, it is, and it gets even better. Do you remember that fire that Jesus had going on the beach that morning? Guess what kind of fire it was. It was a charcoal fire. As a matter of fact, the only two times where that specific Greek word, anthrakia, is used in the entire New Testament are John 18:18 (the scene of Peter’s denials) and John 21:9 (the scene of Peter’s restoration). Therefore, don’t be surprised if Jesus restores you following a failure or a setback by somehow reproducing the exact same situation in your life. It worked for Peter, and it will work for you, too.
Russell Mckinney lives in the English Woods area of Spruce Pine and serves as the pastor of Roan Mountain Baptist Church in Bakersville.
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