The Restoration of Peter

We are continuing our theme of the drama before the crucifixion of Christ, and especially Peter’s 3-time denial of Christ. Peter was very broken when he saw Christ after the cock had crowed (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). After the resurrection, when the angels at the empty tomb appeared to the women after the resurrection, they singled out Peter, saying,

But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you (Mark 16:7; emphasis mine).

We all fear confrontation. Confrontation, though, can be one of the most loving things that a person can do or have done to them. We have all had times when we have had to face our failures. The enemy of our souls would have us believe that we are out for the count and not worthy, thereby halting our growth and effectiveness. Satan knows what will happen when we get up. We will arise having learned something more of God’s grace and something more of our need to lean on Christ. Our thankfulness deepens. This is how failure can make us stronger. We have more humility in our souls and more dependence on the Lord. It is how we respond to our failure that will make the difference in where we go from that point. We are to fail forward and continue to walk. While they waited in Galilee for Jesus, Peter went back to what he had done in his younger days:

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:3).

John tells us that it was early in the morning when Jesus came and called to them from the shore, asking them in the negative, almost as if He knew that they had no fish. “He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered’” (John 21:5). Fishermen normally will stretch the truth about the one that got away, but the disciples were honest with Jesus that morning and said that they had no fish. Life can be unfruitful unless the Lord is in the boat. Even though they did not yet recognize that it was the Lord, when He said to try the right side of the boat, they did so. Immediately, they caught a huge amount of fish, so many that they had difficulty hauling in the net. Instantly, their minds went back to a time some three years earlier when Jesus had instructed them to push out their boat into the deep water and recast their nets for a catch. When they saw this miracle repeated in front of their eyes, they knew it was the Lord on the shoreline. At the words of John, Peter wrapped himself with his outer garment, and swam to Jesus. Peter had denied Jesus publically, and now he is restored before the others.

 15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17).

He lovingly asked Peter a question, “Do you love me more than these?” It is possible that Peter was wondering if he was done with ministry and, perhaps, thought that he had disqualified himself from service in the kingdom of God. With the Lord, though, brokenness is part of the training. The Lord had no sharp rebuke for him, but asks Peter the only question that matters, “Do you love me?”

There are many things that Peter may have been expecting Jesus to say to him, but I don’t think he was expecting to be asked about his love for Christ. When Jesus asks Peter the first time, He asked him if he loved Christ with an agape love. Peter responds saying that he loves Christ with an affectionate love, avoiding using the Greek word agape to describe his love. He is no longer self-confident and admits that alongside the tender agape love of the Lord, his love is insufficient to be described as agape love. Each time, Jesus restores Peter back to feeding the Lord’s lambs, taking care of His sheep, and feeding the sheep. For each of the three denials, the Lord asks him three times as to his love for Him. Do you love Me? This is the heart of all ministry that God’s people do in His Name—is it done out of a personal and abiding love for Christ?

It is important for us to grasp that Christ’s love for Peter was just as strong and just the same as it was before his denial. We are not loved any less for our failures. We are to rebound back into the grace of the Lord Jesus and the calling of God for our lives. Peter did return to God’s calling for his life, and was eventually martyred for his faith. May love for Christ be our central focus too.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas