Wouldn't it have been understandable if Peter had drowned himself?
"When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea" (John 21:7).
If you read this verse out of its immediate context, you could easily assume that it describes a despairing response of Peter. After what he did (betraying Jesus), his reaction upon seeing the Lord is to throw himself overboard--drown himself--a response like Judas' hanging himself. How could Peter bear to face Jesus after having denied Him so blatantly, repeatedly?
Yet Peter's reaction was exactly the opposite. This is a man so excited to see Jesus, so eager to reach Him and embrace Him (or perhaps even just fall at His feet) that he cannot sit still in the boat for a hundred more yards. Peter can't contain himself; he jumps into the water and swims/wades the remaining distance. You can picture him soaked through, running crazily through the shallow water as best a person can run in knee-deep waves, desperate to reach Jesus.
Doesn't this speak volumes about the character of Jesus? We might naturally expect Peter to cower in fear, hide in shame--if not to commit suicide, then at least to be the last one off the boat, averting his eyes, hanging behind the others. Instead, he can't get to Jesus fast enough. What does that tell us about the mercy and compassion of the Christ Peter knew and loved?
In the face of his failure, Peter ran to Jesus. Where else could he go? He knew that Jesus alone had the words of eternal life. And so rather than wallow in despair, rather than attempt to self-atone, Peter threw himself on the mercy of Jesus. He may have stumbled; he may have even temporarily abandoned hope (he was fishing, after all--had he decided to revert to his old way of life, thinking the disciple thing hadn't worked out too well?). But when Peter saw his Savior, he was compelled to run TO Jesus, not away.
And Jesus welcomed him. Jesus again extended to Peter the invitation He'd given in the very beginning: Follow Me.
Lord, teach me to trust Your mercy, Your compassion, Your lovingkindness like this. Teach me, when I screw up yet again, when I deny and betray and offend You, to run to You. Teach me to throw myself on Your mercy, trusting that You will forgive, knowing that You are my only hope.