One of the most tender, touching portions of Scripture is John 21:15-25 where Jesus restores Peter following the resurrection. For fallible people like us prone to sin and failure it is so uplifting and encouraging. Many lessons stand out like these: Jesus is the God of second chances. Failure doesn’t have to be final or fatal. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves but still loves us and works with us when we fail.
This passage is very critical to the history of the church for without this restoration there would be no Apostle Peter. Had Jesus not restored him as He did Peter would have gone down in history like Judas the betrayer. Peter would not be a name we gladly give to our sons. What a powerful thing restoration is!
Jesus’ opening question “do you truly love me more than these?” is probably referring to the other disciples, v. 15. Peter had professed greater devotion than all the rest, see John 13:37. He had learned the hard way that boundless self-confidence is a sure path to failure. His boasting caused him to not take the precautions he should have and heed the warnings Jesus gave him. What a lesson for us that when we know we are weak is when we are truly strong.
Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him paralleling the three denials Peter had made, vv. 15-17. How helpful this was for Peter’s future credibility and ministry. He really did love Jesus and Jesus Himself acknowledged that His three affirmations erased the three denials. Despite our failures Jesus knows that we truly do love Him. When we’ve betrayed our Master we feel like hypocrites who cannot say we really love Him. Not so. Our failure does not mean we do not have a commitment to the Savior that is precious to Him. He forgives us so we should forgive ourselves and reaffirm our love which is a balm for our healing.
After the third question “Do you love Me?” Peter was hurt, v. 17. Why was it necessary for him to be hurt? Without sorrow over sin there is no true reformation. Many people are sorry about the consequences of sin but not sorry over the wrong they have done to their Lord. Such “worldly sorrow” never leads to true repentance and heartfelt change. Truly being convicted over the wrong we have done to God and others and being broken over it creates the proper foundation for real restoration and future usefulness. Without an attitude change there can never be the humility that is essential for growth in Christian character and God-likeness.
After Peter’s three affirmations of love Jesus repeated His original call “Follow Me,” v. 18 (see John 1:43). This is always God’s will for every believer and is always available to us no matter how far we have fallen. No believer ever falls so far that they cannot follow Jesus again. Consequences may limit some of the things we could have done for the Savior and that is to be regretted. Moses could not go into the Promised Land following his sins of anger and impatience with God’s people. But following Jesus and pursuing Christ-likeness is our glorious quest once again. Thomas Aquinas said “Our falls make us more humble and more cautious.” Since that is surely a part of being Christ-like, even our failures, if learned from, can contribute to us being better followers of Jesus than we were before. How marvelous is His grace.
Your friend, renewed many times, Pastor Brian (:-}).