The image of the charcoal fire in the Gospel of John is an image of divine mercy. John very deliberately contrasts these two scenes in his Gospel. Thus, I have chosen this imagery for my little Web log.
Over the first charcoal fire, Peter thrice denies having even known Jesus. Over the second charcoal fire, Peter thrice affirms his love for Jesus. As the first charcoal fire burns, the powers of death and fear seem to hold sway, and Peter succumbs to fear during his test. As the second charcoal fire burns, the Lord himself, almighty victor over death, has in his infinite mercy prepared the fire for Peter, who receives this commission to “feed my lambs … tend my sheep … feed my sheep.” From thenceforth, Peter himself burns like the charcoal, full of authority, boldness, and zeal. And he would later be put to the test again, and this time, he would heed the words of the Lord, “Follow me.”
The Lord stands always waiting for us on the shore when we venture out into the waters of sin and death. He stands there waiting, having prepared a fire for us, though we have denied him again and again. Will you have the courage to approach and not only confess your love for him, but continue through trials that carry you “where you do not wish to go”? This happens indeed to this very day. So let us take solace by the fire on the shore with the Lord and remember his words, “follow me.”