Have you ever boldly proclaimed Christ, only to fail Him later? Have you ever felt confused, broken or lost in your faith journey? Have you ever just wanted to go into hiding? Are there wounds deep in your soul that need the healing touch of Jesus? Have you ever wondered how Jesus could use a flawed sinner like you for any good in the kingdom?
In my own faith journey through the years, my answer would be yes to all of these questions. I imagine many of you would say the same. There is another who also struggled with his failure, his flaws in his humanity and his passionate desire to serve his Lord. His name is Simon Peter.
This teaching covers many verses, so I encourage you to give it some time to really soak in. I've divided it into two parts for those of you that might choose to read it in sections. The important thing is not to rush how the Lord wants to speak into your life through one of the most wonderful chapters in Scripture.
For our last blog of the feast series we are going to study the last feast that Jesus shared with Simon Peter and his disciples on earth. John 21 is an intimate scene with the Savior that takes place after Jesus has been crucified and resurrected. This encounter holds beautiful truths for those of us who long to be faithful followers of Christ.
Jesus has told the disciples to go to the mountain at the sea of Galilee and wait, however in John 21 we see that seven of them have gone fishing. We don’t know if they are just hungry or if they are, in essence, returning to their old way of making a living. But the group is the familiar inner circle with Peter and Nathanael, James and John, Philip and Andrew. Thomas the doubter is thrown in and we can only assume that doubting Thomas wasn’t going to be left out again!
The disciples had left everything and followed Jesus…. and there were three years of powerful ministry as they answered this call of Jesus on their lives. There were amazing miracles, healings, incredible teachings, heavenly visions, and through it all Jesus and the disciples faced great opposition. Then they saw Jesus, their Messiah die on the cross, and when it seemed all hope was gone, Jesus appeared to them twice risen from the grave. And now they wait for His coming to them again…. and this is what happens.
John 21:1-14 (NIV)
1 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “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.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered.
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
In our other studies in this series, Jesus has been fed a feast, as an invited guest, but here He is the one cooking the feast for his disciples.
The future is uncertain. Jesus, their Savior is risen from the dead and has appeared and then disappeared again just as quickly out of their lives. This is the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead, (meaning He appeared suddenly in glorified form). It is sometime between the 8th day and the 40th day when He ascended into heaven.
He miraculously appears through locked doors and they know it is Jesus, but don’t seem to fully know. Mary recognizes his voice but initially thinks He is the gardener. The disciples on the Emmaus road talk with him for hours, but don’t recognize him until He breaks bread, then to vanish again. The way they recognize Him is by the wounds in His hands and feet.
This time, on the shores of the sea of Galilee, they recognize it is the Lord, not by what they can see from the boat only 100 yards away, but from what He tells them to do.
Haven’t caught any fish have you? (They’ve been fishing all night.) Perhaps John recognizes His voice when He says, “Cast the nets on the other side.” It is a familiar part of their story with Jesus.
John knows and then Peter knows. It’s Jesus! They recognize Him now because of the first miraculous catch of fish when He told them to put down their nets after they had already been fishing all night and not caught any fish. And even though they are so close to shore Peter simply cannot wait to get to Jesus, so he throws on his fisherman’s coat and dives into the cold water.
This time there is no boldly asking Jesus if he might walk on the water. He just wants to get to Him as fast as he can. His response is so typically, wonderfully Peter!
Now just try to imagine the scene.... Smell the sea, taste the fish and bread on the hot coals, hear the sounds of excitement as Peter jumps in, swims to shore, and rushes to embrace Jesus, splashing water all over Him. I imagine Jesus probably laughing, with His arms open wide to receive his friend. Meanwhile, the other disciples are doing their best to gather all the fish in the nets and get to shore. They arrive and Jesus invites them to bring some of the fish to join in with the breakfast that He is cooking for them, adding the fish they have caught to the fire.
The risen Lord of the universe is cooking fish for the disciples on the hot coals!
Then Peter drags the net to shore all by himself. That man was strong! He pulls in 153 large fish, probably about two pounds each. So he is pulling in at least 300 pounds of fish and the net is not torn. Isn't it amazing that they stopped to actually count the fish and that God gives us that detail!
Then just picture them greeting Jesus on the shore. Can you see it in your minds eye? Imagine the joy!
They know it is the Lord, but remember He is in His glorified form. The risen Savior has come to serve them His farewell meal of bread and fish.
But there is much more to this story. I want us to look at the relationship specifically of Peter and Jesus. I love Peter. I relate to Peter. I think we all do in some way. He is referred to almost 200 times in the New Testament. Just as a comparison, John is referred to 31 times.
Peter is a complex, strong leader, a simple fisherman, chosen apostle, yet flawed and sinful. He’s passionate, outspoken, impetuous and rash, bold in proclaiming who Jesus is, then hiding, confused, broken and humbled.
Peter is utterly defined by what the love of Jesus brought forth in him.
What did Jesus see in Peter?
John 1:42 “Then Andrew took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "Your name is Simon son of John, but you will be called Cephas." (This is the same as Peter and means "a rock.”)
When later Peter declared Jesus, as the Messiah in Matthew 16,
Jesus says, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Jesus gazes into the eyes and heart of Peter and says, “Upon this rock I will build.”
He is not describing who Peter is, but who he will become because of his faith and love for Christ.
Peter always appears first in the listing of disciples. His deep and close friendship with Jesus is clearly portrayed in the gospels and Jesus often specifically names Peter.
At the crucifixion Peter is fragile, yet he will emerge as the Rock, the foundational leader of the church of which Jesus is the chief cornerstone. Peter emerges as the one who fearlessly proclaims the risen Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and who is ultimately martyred for his faith.
But what happens to make that difference in his life?
What are the lessons we can learn for our own lives from the last encounter Jesus has with Peter in the last gospel, in the last chapter of John?
This next scene in John 21 gives us the final lesson that Jesus specifically teaches Peter before he ascends to heaven. It is the turning point in Peter’s life and ministry that I believe enables him to move into his position of leadership in the church. The story continues....
15 When 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.”
16 Again 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.”
17 The 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.
18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
It’s hard to imagine sinking lower than Peter was at the beginning of this story. He had proclaimed publicly that his intentions were to die for Christ if needed. He had spoken so boldly about how he would never forsake Christ, even if others did. He had even tried to defend Christ when the mob came to the garden of Gethsemane, drawing his sword to fight off possibly 100 men or more. He had followed Christ after his arrest.
But when the slave girl questions him, he denies Christ, as he warms himself by the fire in the courtyard outside the palace of the high priest, Annas, where Jesus was being interrogated. In fact, he denies Christ three times that night and then when the rooster crows at the third denial, as predicted by Jesus, his eyes meet the Savior and he flees the scene and weeps bitterly.
Jesus appears to Peter again where it all began, on the shore of Galilee. It was at this same sea of Galilee that Jesus had said they would be fishers of men. The setting had to remind Peter of his original calling with Jesus. Jesus had come to have a very specific conversation with Simon Peter. Nothing is coincidence with Jesus. This is all very intentional.
And then Jesus asks Peter after breakfast on that morning, “Do you love me more than these?”
Jesus always called Peter Simon because he had not yet become Cephas - the rock. Peter, the rock, was a prophetic name given to him by Jesus.
Jesus has come to restore and reinstate Peter.
Peter needs to be reinstated and affirmed in his calling because of his failure and denial of Christ three times after Jesus’ arrest.
Peter’s denial of Christ took place next to a fire. It was a place of failure and despair for him. So Jesus asks him three times if he loves Him, not to condemn him, but to give him a chance to openly confess his love.
Do you see how the similarities in his denials and this conversation are so beautifully orchestrated by Jesus?
And now Peter’s calling is affirmed and he is restored next to a fire on the shores of the sea of Galilee, the same sea where he first answered the call to be a disciple.
Jesus uses the word agapao in the Greek when he asks Peter about his love. It means to the fullest extent, noble and pure. Peter responds with the word phileo which is the word for brotherly love in the Greek. There has been much made of this response in teaching I have heard in the past, but they probably weren’t speaking Greek anyway and Peter’s word is the same one used in John 5:20 when Jesus talks about the Father’s love for him, so it couldn’t be an inferior love. Some commentators say that it was simply a stylistic choice by John as he frequently changed up words in his writings.
The point is that Jesus is asking Peter to affirm his love for Him.
He doesn’t ask him, “Will you serve me?” or "Do you have faith in Me?” Those would have been legitimate questions for faith serves as the foundation of our relationship to Jesus Christ.
But faith is the foundation, and love is the evidence.
In the Aramaic the word for love is hooba which is taken from a root word that means to set on fire. In other words, Jesus would have been asking Peter, “ Do you burn with love for me?”
Our love for Jesus must be passionate and kindle a holy flame within our hearts.
The Scriptures tell us that Peter is penitent. He had great remorse for his betrayal and wept bitterly. But Christ cannot commend his flock to those who are only repentant.
It is only deep love for the Savior, love above all else, that will sustain his calling and ours.
Jesus says, "Do you love me more than these?" What does “these” refer to?
It could be fishing, his old way of life, either for the pleasure of it or material gain of it, but is most likely referring to the disciples. Do you love me more than your close friends love me?
Remember Peter had rashly declared, “Though all deny you, I will never deny you.” And now he will not claim that he loves more than the others. He replies simply, “You know that I love you, you know that I love you, you know all things, you know that I love you.” Peter calls Christ himself in His omniscience to be the witness of His love.
Peter must face up to the reality of his sin. It is a time of intense pain.
But sometimes wounds must be reopened to be healed.
Michael Card writes in his wonderful book on the life of Peter entitled, The Fragile Stone,
”His painful questions are meant to restore Peter to his proper place. Painful as the questions are, they are an expression of Jesus’ creative forgiveness. Jesus’ questions open a wound in Peter’s soul, a wound that can be tended to and healed only by being reopened. The forgiveness Jesus has commanded them to offer has been offered to them and it empowers Peter. Now he understands that his position of leadership is founded not on his strength but on his brokenness. Jesus had said of the woman, “I tell you your sins and they are many have been forgiven, so she can show me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47)
If that was still true, then Peter's love must be the greatest because he is been forgiven of the greatest sin. Even in this Peter ranks first among the disciples. Once it is firmly established in his heart, he will be fit to lead them.”
Each time Peter responds to Jesus’ question of his love, Jesus instructs Peter.
Feed My lambs. Tend or Shepherd My sheep. Feed My Sheep
His first call is to become a fisher of men.
Now comes the call is to be a Shepherd and it will be one of the themes in the writings of Peter in Scripture.
And finally when he says, “Follow Me” the healing is complete.The offer that Jesus had given Peter three years before to follow Him still stands, despite his failure.
Jesus is the great pursuer of the fallen. He has been the dearest of friends to Peter - forgiving him when he failed, healing a painful memory, loving and believing in Peter and dying for Him.
And what will be the result of this farewell breakfast of fish, forgiveness and restoration?
The new calling is clear. For the remainder of Peter’s life he will be the primary earthly shepherd for this flock of frightened new believers. He will risk his life for them, care for them and powerfully preach by the Holy Spirit the truth, feeding them God’s Word.
He will become the shepherd who feeds them Jesus.
The coals on the fire become a flame in the heart of Peter. Within seven weeks Peter will preach the boldest sermon of his life in Jerusalem and 3000 will be saved and the nucleus of the church will be established there.
He becomes the rock Jesus prophesied he would become through the power of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, grace, mercy and love of the Savior.
That is what and who defines him. That is what the love of Christ and for Christ can bring forth.
Later, Peter will be crucified for his faith as Jesus had told him he would die - stretched out on a cross - and history tells us he requested to be crucified upside down.
Ultimately Peter dies for his friend and Savior, Jesus, who first died for him, who paid the price for his sin.
But this is so much more than an incredible story about Peter and Jesus. It's a story of the Savior's pursuing love for you and for me.
Jesus wants to heal your wounds and forgive your failures as well. They do not need to disqualify you from answering Jesus’ call to serve Him.
His heart is always for restoration.
There is power in love and forgiveness.
It is never too late!
Are there painful memories in your mind that need to be healed by the love of Jesus?
Many of us can identify with Peter over our own sense of spiritual faltering and failing.
How many of us have resolved to be faithful, only to have fallen into sin, spiritual coldness, and barrenness?
How often have we done the very thing we said that we would not do in terms of spiritual commitment?
It is easy to get discouraged when we look at our lives.
But our hope does not rest solely in our love for Christ - but in His love for us.
Jesus is the great pursuer in this passage. He is in the business of restoring His children, His friends, His beloved. Maybe you too need to find an intimate moment with Jesus and confirm your love for Him and find rest for your soul and healing in His forgiveness.
Jesus sees all. He is omniscient as Peter said to Him - You know what’s in my heart. You know I love you.
Of course Jesus knew, but Peter needed to affirm it to heal the wound.
Nothing is hidden from Him: not your motives, not your desires or your affections. He sees all and calls for your response. Do you love Him? Even with your failures, even in your sin, is there still that truest sense of love for Jesus Christ in the depths of your soul?
We cannot look at the Bible studies or Sunday school classes we have attended or taught, our service in the church or community, the money we have given or the people we have helped. We must only stand on the merit of His grace in our hearts and His great love and mercy for us.
Jesus’ love for me and you is not rooted in our performance. It is settled at the cross and in our hearts.
We love Him because He first loved us. To realize that love for Christ is in our hearts is to rekindle the assurance that we are His and He is ours.
And the response of Christ to us as well is “Follow Me!”
How do we follow Christ?
First, following Christ is an attitude of devotion and true affection which is set upon the Person of Jesus Christ. We know we are following Christ when we have a desire to know Him more intimately and we make choices for our lives that reflect that heart of devotion. When we long for His presence, seek Him in worship and prayer and ask HIm for direction in our lives we are following Christ.
Secondly, we can’t really know how to follow Christ unless we are spending time in the Word of God reading, studying, and hearing the Word. "If you love Me," Jesus stated, "you will keep My commandments" (John 14:15).
When we spend time with Jesus in His Word, we know His commands and how to live them out in service to the Lord.
Our service must come from a root of deep love for Jesus.
Peter’s failure in his denial did not disqualify him from service for the kingdom of God and the same is true for us.
When we have been zealous in our words that we’re going to live and fight for Christ and failed him or when we have become complacent in our walk with Jesus, it does not disqualify us from serving and from the work of the kingdom.
Like Peter, we are not defined by who we are or what we have done, but by who we can become through the love, forgiveness, grace and power of Jesus Christ living within us.
That is why He died on the cross. He is the great forgiver. He sent His Spirit to enable us to be who He created us to be. Like Peter, we need to run into His loving arms when we have failed Him and every day of our lives. The One who pursued Peter in love and restoration also pursues you.
As we close this beautiful story I want to leave you with a few questions to ponder in the days ahead.
Remember, when Jesus gazes into your heart, just like Peter, He sees who you will become. Perseverance in the faith isn’t simply left to us. When God truly has started the work, He will finish it (Phiiippians 1:6). If Jesus has made us his own, He will be faithful to keep us till the end (1 Thessalonians 5:24; Hebrews 10:23).
I want to close out this teaching with a song that has ministered to me greatly in recent years. It is based on Psalm 139:8-10 and has spoken to my heart as I’ve wrestled with God’s purpose and future for my own life and ministry. This Scripture has carried me as I’ve struggled with loss and disappointments in this season of my life.
Please listen to the link below.
There is no safer or more beautiful place to be in the universe than hidden with Jesus in the heart of God’s delight.
We can rest secure in His purpose and love for us when we are settled in our love for Christ through our salvation.
There is One who knows the depths of your heart and has a beautiful purpose for your life no matter what pain, failure or uncertainty you may feel. There is One who offers forgiveness, restoration and hope in your story.
His name is Jesus. He is the Feast for your Soul!
He will hold you fast and secure in His love and grace.
Grateful that Jesus is the feast of my soul,
It has been our great joy and privilege to share this "Feast for your Soul" devotional series with you over the last few months, Thanks you for feasting with us in the Scriptures!
In the words of Peter, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” 1 Peter 2:2-3
May we crave God's Word and find our greatest delight in Jesus so that we grow into spiritual maturity, nourished and defined by His love so that we may become all that Jesus sees within us!
Kathy and Sherry
Resources: Michael Card, The Fragile Stone; Ken Gire, Moments with the Savior, teaching by John McArthur, Precept Austin, Phil Newton, Pinterest photos, LDS Media Library
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