A statue of Jesus and Peter at Tagbah on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee


Jesus’ power to transform lives is revealed in weak, broken people who’ve nothing to offer God but humble acknowledgments of failure.

Personal humility isn’t posed; it’s produced.

Failure, shame, and brokenness are the ingredients of true humility.

A proud, stubborn rejection of Jesus and His will for one’s life eventually lead to failures that produce brokenness.

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6)

Proud people always fall from their perch of selfishness, sensualness, and sinfulness.

God sees to it.


Simon Peter and His Pride


Simon Peter is an example of a proud person who had everything going for him. Peter’s pride led him to failure, deep personal shame, and eventually to brokenness.

Early in Peter’s life, Christ commissioned Peter for kingdom service (Matthew 16:17-19). Peter walked daily with Christ throughout the Messiah’s ministry (Matthew 17:1). Peter’s closeness to Jesus made him think of his own spiritual greatness and legacy (Matthew 18:1).

Peter boasted that “Even if everyone else denies you, Jesus, I never will” (Matthew 26:33). 

But when soldiers arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter trailed behind as he walked to the courtyard of Caiaphas to watch what would happen to Jesus.

Three times in the courtyard of Israel’s High Priest, people identified Peter as a follower of Jesus Christ. Each time, Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.

The final denial included a curse.

Peter left the courtyard weeping because of his sin. Shame filled him because of his conduct (John 18).

The steps outside Caiphus’ house leading to the Western Wall (Photo: Wade Burleson)


Something Happened to Peter


Peter, the man who spat a curse, denying he knew Christ three times to save his own skin, eventually died a courageous death by refusing to deny He was a disciple of Jesus.

Peter transformed from a proud sinner to a courageous, humble person who had the power of Christ in him.

In AD 64, over three decades after he denied Christ in Caiaphas’ courtyard, Roman officials again demanded Peter to deny Christ as his LORD. This time, Peter refused. The  Roman soldiers told him they were going to crucify him.

Peter requested that his tormentors crucify him upside down because he was unworthy to die like his LORD Jesus Christ.

What had happened to Peter?

How did Peter go from a man who denied Christ three times in Caiphas’ courtyard to a man just a few years later willing to be crucified upside down rather than deny His LORD?

Jesus met Peter at the place of his personal failure, brokenness, and shame.

Jesus gives grace to broken people whose sins have humbled them.

Peter’s life went from powerless to powerful because Peter went from boasting to brokenness.

Peter went from a boasting sinner to a broken supplicant.

Peter went from a proud, rebellious sinner to a broken, courageous saint. The transformation occurred at a charcoal fire near Tagbah, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.


 A Charcoal Fire


There are only two places in the New Testament where the phrase “charcoal fire” is used.

First, in John 18:18, in Caiaphas’ courtyard. Jesus had been brought to Caiaphus’ house, the High Priest of Israel, to be tried for Jesus’ alleged blasphemy. The Pharisees and Sadducees were furious that this Carpenter from Nazareth claimed to be the Messiah.

As they put Jesus on trial, Peter sat in the courtyard and “warmed his hands over a charcoal fire.”

It was in this courtyard over a charcoal fire that Peter denied to others three separate times that he knew Jesus.

The next day, Jesus died on the cross. Three days later, Christ rose from the dead.

After the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the disciples of Jesus are fishing on the Sea of Galilee near a place called Tagbah.

In John 21, we discover that the disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. Then, a Man suddenly appears on the shore and shouts, “Cast your nets to the other side” (John 21:6).

The disciples do as instructed, pulling in a haul of large fish numbering 153.

They realized that the Man shouting instructions was the resurrected Jesus.

Peter jumped from the boat into the Sea of Galilee and swam 100 feet to shore.

Jesus had been preparing breakfast for the disciples, and when Peter arrived on shore, he saw some fish being cooked  over “a charcoal fire.”

This is the second and final time a “charcoal fire” is mentioned in the New Testament.


Charcoal Fires Have a Distinct Smell


A charcoal fire smells much different than a traditional wood fire.

Do you remember your father’s cologne or your mother’s perfume? I guarantee you that every time you step into an elevator and you smell someone wearing your father’s cologne or your mother’s perfume, you think of your parents.

Scientists tell us our smell skills are tied directly to our memory wall.

Jesus made the charcoal fire to remind Peter of his failure and shame of denying Jesus in Caiaphas’ courtyard.

Yet Jesus didn’t bring Peter back to his place of shame to rebuke, ridicule, or even reject him.

Jesus prepared the charcoal fire as the place intentionally. Peter needed to be reminded of his sin and be broken of it.

In other words, Jesus began producing humility in Peter by bringing him to acknowledge his previous failure.


Humble Brokenness Leads to Powerful Transformation


Tagbah, Israel, Sea of Galilee, where Jesus once prepared fish for His disciples over a charcoal fire (Photo: Wade Burleson)


You’ll never experience the power of Christ until you are broken over your rejection of His will for your life.

The power of God rests on those who feel the flush heat of shame for rejecting Christ.

On the other hand, Christ pours out His power and grace on the weak and the humble who come to him with broken confessions of sin.

“But we have this treasure (Christ Jesus) in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (II Corinthians 4:7 NIV).

God chooses to use broken vessels. Man’s pride must be crushed before the power of Jesus converts.

Some might object by saying, “If I confess to my sin, failure, and personal shame, doesn’t that mean I’m disqualified to be a follower of Jesus?”

No. Just the opposite.

Christ gives grace to the humble. He transforms the broken sinner.

Jesus separates those on whom His power rests (sanctification) from the proud. He separates us from others like He separated Peter. Jesus removes the pain of our shame and gives us Divine grace and power when we confess our failures and dependence on Him.

Christ recommissioned Peter at that fire of coals by the Sea of Galilee.

After meeting Christ at the charcoal fire, Peter begins to share the Good News of Jesus with people all over the world, eventually dying a courageous martyr’s death.

Peter became a new man. He didn’t continue in his prideful rebellion. He came to humble confession, conversion, and a brand new commission. 

When sinners like us come to Jesus in confession and brokenness, Jesus transforms us.

At the first charcoal fire, Peter was a proud man. At the second charcoal fire, Peter was a broken man.

God will only transform us when we meet Him at the place of our greatest sin and shame. Only then does He forgive us and transform us.

Pridefully cherishing a rejection of Jesus and His ways is riding a fast chariot to personal destruction.

Brokenness over sin and failure is the start of a new life.

Christ revealed to Peter. . . “You can’t, I can.”


The 153 Fish Caught


Mystery of the 153 Fish


The nets that were cast at the command of Christ in John 21 came back full of fish.

The fish pulled into the net were 153, and the net was not broken (John 21:11).

This account is similar to the disciples’ first meeting with Christ in Luke 5, except the nets broke, and the fish were not numbered.

But in this last encounter with Christ, at the coal fire, the fish were numbered, and the nets were not broken – 153 fish.


Why Give the Specific Number of 153?


There are two possibilities for giving the exact number of fish caught:

  1. The number 153 is formed by using Hebrew alphabet letters. In Hebrew, letters double as numbers. In Hebrew gematria, the number 153 forms the phrase “I AM GOD.”
  2. Scholars tell us that when this net of 153 was pulled into the boat, there were 153 known nations worldwide.

Jesus is God. We are not.

Jesus gives us a purpose in this world.

Until we follow His purpose, not ours, we live lives of ultimate personal destruction. 

Jesus recommissioned a broken Peter to go into all the world, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ, not as a self-righteous man, but as a broken man who had tasted of the grace of God and had experienced the power of Christ.

God chooses imperfect people who make mistakes in life to advance His kingdom. But before we ever experience the transformative power of Christ, we must come to Him at the point of our greatest shame.

Pride leads to doing our own thing, living our lives the way we want, and refusing to submit to Christ as Lord.

This kind of pride leads to a hard fall and personal destruction.

But when we humbly come to Jesus at the place of our greatest shame and failure, He produces personal transformation by placing in us the Divine power needed to transform us.

Will you meet Jesus at the charcoal fire He’s prepared in your life?