Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Fire of Coals

And the other disciples came in a little ship;
(for they were not far from land, but as it were two
hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon
then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of
coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.

John 21:8-9

Notice the mention of “coal,” which always means
“charcoal,” the only coal of Bible lands. The poorer
class, with whom the Lord and most of His first
disciples appear to have associated themselves with,
did not commonly use any other fuel than wood for
heating their houses and dried cow or camel dung for
cooking purposes (Ezek. 4:15). To them, therefore,
“coal,” that is, “charcoal,” (Strong's G439 - anthrakia)

would be a great luxury.

Think of this in connection with the “fire of coals,”
that had such attraction for Peter at the
high-priest’s palace, that is, “the brazier of
charcoal,” used amongst the wealthy in towns instead
of our modern fireplace (John 18.18). Caiaphas was so
rich that he even heated his outside courtyard with
the most expensive fuel available.

The only other time we read of a “fire of coals” is
found in John’s account of a “breakfast.” The broiled
fish and bread which the Lord prepared for His
disciples was cooked over a charcoal fire. No wonder
John mentions “the fire of coals,” since these poor
men were accustomed to their food being cooked with
the usual fuel of dried cow-dung (John 21.9). Charcoal
certainly wasn’t found lying around on the shores of
the lake – Christ had to bring it with him.

What can we learn from these two instances – the only
ones in New Testament Greek – regarding charcoal fires?

Peter had been standing by a charcoal fire when he
thrice denied his association with Christ. Because
charcoal was so rare, Peter forever after would have
likely associated charcoal fires with his bitter
failure to be faithful to his Master.

In modern terms, we might say that by bringing
charcoal to the beach for the breakfast, Jesus was
providing an emotional “reframe” for Peter. By having
him thrice reaffirm his devotion and commitment to
serve while standing next to a charcoal fire, Jesus
tempered Peter’s anguished regret and gave him a
personalized renewal of his call to serve in the
Kingdom. Thereafter, every “fire of coals” could be a
trigger for gratitude and a reminder of the Lord’s
mercy and love.

Likewise, when our hearts are broken over

promises not kept, and disappointing outcomes, and
when we long for a second chance, we can be comforted
that we have a Savior who can and will heal all our
wounds when we come unto Him, and know that he longs for us
to work with him for the salvation of our brothers and

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