Jim Johnson – 768 words

I was 17, had my own car and I was pretty cool.  I was also delusional because my car was a used-up 1960 Plymouth – the kind my grandma drove.  But – it was my car, and I was going cruising.  I cranked the windows open, hit the push button that said Drive, and then watched the bar graph odometer track my speed.  (It was a crazy car.) 

Because I drove a 1960 Plymouth, I felt I seriously needed to improve my cool factor, I, therefore, began smoking.  So, there I was on the interstate with the windows down, the radio blaring and a cigarette hanging from my lips. 

I finished my smoke, and even though there was a perfectly fine ash tray conveniently located in the dash, I threw the cigarette butt out my window. (It was more cool that way)  Minutes later I began to smell smoke.  The breeze blew the butt back into the car and my car seat ignited!!!

60 miles an hour, in the center lane of a 3-lane highway thick with cars – and my seat was on fire.  Where’s a rest stop when you need it?   One hand gripped the wheel, while the other frantically beat down the flame.  It finally died but the fire left a big smoldering crater in my fine upholstery.  

Being cool became more complicated after that.  It was hard to find a date that was willing to sit in a charred crater.

That was a fire I will never forget!

Peter also had a fire he would never forget. 

It burned in the courtyard of the high priest on a chilly evening while Jesus was being bullied by his captors.  John was careful to call it a “charcoal fire.” (John 18:18) 

Charcoal is the residue of wood that has been burned in an oxygen deprived environment.  To produce it, you would build a teepee of logs, kindle a fire in it, cover it with soil and then let it smolder for five days. 

The impurities would burn off leaving pure black carbon.   Charcoal was valued because it was 1/5th the weight of wood, created a controlled burn, produced greater heat and it was smokeless.   The cost of the labor involved, however, made it a commodity that only the wealthy – such as the priests could enjoy.

The scent of the roasting charcoal filled Peter’s senses as he warmed himself that night.  It was in the glow of that fire that Peter denied knowing Jesus.

The rooster call exposed his duplicity and reduced him to shame.  There could be no forgiveness for such disloyalty.

Peter began to move away from Jesus.  He was absent at His crucifixion and even His burial.  The resurrection should have changed everything, but it didn’t.  In fact, Peter decided to leave the life of a disciple and go back to commercial fishing. 

He and the others spent the night fishing but caught nothing.  A silhouette from shore told them to cast the nets on the other side of the boat.  They did, and they caught enough to sink it.

Peter sensed it was Jesus and that He seemed to be reaching out to him despite the past.  He moved toward Him, but as he drew near, he was stunned to smell that familiar odor again.  “When they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire ready with a fish placed on it, and bread.”  (John 21:9) -NET Bible®

The experts say that odors evoke memory better than any other trigger.  The smell-analyzing part of the brain is near to the region that handles memory and emotion.  And don’t we know it!  The smell of fresh baked goods takes us back to grandma’s happy kitchen, while the smell of sweaty socks evokes the angst of 7th grade gym class.

Another charcoal fire!  There are only 2 references to this specific kind of fire in the Bible. Peter was present for both.  This was a divinely devised set up!

The sight and scent of that fire smelled like failure to Peter which is what Jesus intended.  It was a necessary prelude to reconciliation.   Jesus asked, “Peter do you love me or not?”  Peter contritely backspaced over his three denials by offering three affirmations of his devotion to Jesus.  “You know I love you.”

Reconciled!  Peter then went on to become a fierce and faithful witness for Jesus.

The Lord went to considerable trouble and expense to jar the memory of his erring child – to see him reconciled.   Could He also have a charcoal fire kindled for you?


Treat yourself to this classic song of reconciliation: Man After Your Won heart: Gary Chapman (not Doctor)