John is the first to recognize that the Risen Christ is there, on the shore, cooking breakfast for them. Other painters dwell on the drama of Peter's immediate jump into the water, but something even more dramatic is happening in this amazing moment.
The more dramatic event, that the painter of this mural, Bertrand Bahuet seems to grasp, is that John didn't jump into the water.
It is astonishing when you think about it. Even after Peter jumped in, John stayed in the boat. What amazing restraint. And then, remembering these events, perhaps decades later, he doesn't explain why Peter jumped and why he didn't.
Can we imagine ourselves in John's place? Might not some of us grow a little superior, a little entitled? Might not some of us think, 'Heck, who stuck with him through it all? Don't I deserve to be the first to embrace him now? Haven't I established that I ought to be first among the disciples? I mean, Jesus even entrusted his Mother to my care!'
But not John. He remembered that Jesus said that Peter was the rock on which he would build his Church, and so John deferred to Peter. John recognized Jesus first, but he acknowledged Peter as leader and let him go ahead of him. Perhaps he also understood that Peter's need was greater than his own -- precisely because he knew that Peter had denied Jesus. He knew that Peter carried this terrible wound. Out of charity, he sent Peter to the Lord, knowing that only Christ could heal him.
This episode echoes an earlier one -- when Peter and John ran to Jesus' tomb after they learned that it was empty. John, being younger, arrived first, but he did not enter first.
How he must have loved Peter! I have thought so many times about this restraint he showed and his reverence before Jesus' choice of Peter. Would I have been capable of waiting and allowing anyone to enter first? Would I have been able to keep dry when my beloved Jesus was only a few strokes away? John would have had the best of excuses if he had gone first: impetuous youth, the confusion and emotion of the moment, his sense of special brotherhood with Christ after Jesus had entrusted his Mother to his care. But instead, John waited.