Bible Reading: John 21:1-23
Breakfast on the beach was the setting for one of the most wonderful stories in the New Testament – the restoration, by the risen Christ, of a man who had denied Him three times and failed so badly. Who among us hasn’t failed? One of the great leaders of the Chinese Church, Wang Ming Dao, once said, “I have often been like Peter, but never been like Judas!”
Jesus had never specifically addressed Peter in His earlier resurrection appearances. I can imagine Peter was desperate, thinking will He ever forgive me for what I have done? Will He ever trust me again? Am I cast away forever? His reaction was to go fishing [v.3]. That was his old way of life and what he knew best, and it was probably his escape mechanism. They caught nothing that night!
A stranger on the shore called to them [v.4-5], and a miracle happened. Jesus told those hardened fishermen how to catch fish! It was a repeat of that first call by the Sea of Galilee three years earlier [Luke 5:1-11]! John immediately recognised Jesus, and hearing it was Jesus, Peter swam to the shore. Still Jesus did not speak directly to him, but waited until after breakfast [v.15-22].
Jesus then spoke to Peter’s past failure by asking him three times if he loved Him [v.15,16,17]. Each question mirrored one of Peter’s three denials. Twice Jesus asked, “Do you love [‘agapaō’ – the highest form of sacrificial love] Me.” Both times Peter replied, “You know I love [‘phileō’ – affectionate, friendship type love] You.” Jesus used the same word, ‘phileō’, that Peter had used to respond to Jesus. Peter’s brashness and self-confidence has gone – he is humbled! Now was the time to restore Peter, and to re-commission him! Having wiped out the power of Peter’s past failures Jesus then spoke to Peter’s future.
Jesus gave Peter a clear commission, to “feed His sheep.” He was to nurture and protect Christ’s followers. But Jesus also spoke a prophetic word to Peter, telling him that he would die in the same way as his Master [v.18-19]. Jesus did not hold back from telling Peter what it would cost to follow Him.
Having spoken to Peter’s past failures, and his future, Jesus then demanded a present response – “Follow Me” [v.19b]. Peter is so human! He looks at John and says, “What about this man?” Jesus said, very graciously, that’s not your business! “You follow Me” [v.20-22].
Have you experienced in your own life God wiping the slate clean and giving you another opportunity? What did it feel like?
Why do you think Peter could so easily have been distracted by what someone else would be doing instead of doing what Jesus told him to do? How could that have hindered Peter? Why should we be careful not to be distracted in doing what God has called us to do?