Peter is in a Pickle
We have been talking about the subject of Godly wisdom. Last week I mentioned the story of Peter denying Christ in order to “save his own skin,” which in essence he was being a double-minded man at that moment of denial. I do not want to just leave Peter hanging there, so let us look further into his redemption story today.
I think Peter’s intentions of following Jesus were honorable. He boldly proclaimed that he would never deny Jesus, even if all of the other disciples turned away. However, Jesus prophetically prepares him for the truth that he would deny him not once, but three times in a row. This warning does not prevent Peter from failure in the “heat of the moment” when the pressure is placed upon him. I can imagine the remorse and shame that must have engulfed him after the event where he had denied knowing Christ. The Bible describes a Godly sorrow that leads to repentance. Peter probably fit this definition very well.
Now we fast-forward to the next set of events for Peter. The women return to the disciples to tell them that Jesus’ tomb was empty. The scripture says that the disciples did not believe the testimony of the women. However, Peter does not go along with the crowd. In Matt. 24:12 Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Now Peter’s emotions move from sorrow to utter amazement. All of the things that Jesus had told him are true after all. Peter has personally experienced the very pinnacle of human history, the resurrection of Jesus! Peter once again refocuses his energies and hearts passion for Jesus, rather than on his own self-protection. In other words, he begins the process of moving towards being single-minded, aiming his heart and mind on Christ.
Peter is on the road of redemption, but he still has to deal with his failure, personally, face to face with Jesus. Rhuu Rho! Peter is now in a big pickle. What must have been storming thru his mind, one can only guess. His pulse rate probably was well over 200 beats per minute. He is thinking that Jesus is going to give him the business. Peter, why did you deny me when I was at my most difficult time? How could you betray me when I needed you the most? Can’t you see the harm that you have done to me? In addition, how could I every consider restoring you at this point, because you are such damaged goods?
Fortunately for Peter, Jesus does none of these things. Instead, he invites Peter and some of the disciples to breakfast. How cool is that! Peter is not the only one who left Christ while he was being arrested and crucified. They all did. So Jesus could have had a laundry list for each one of them. But instead, he invites them to have a meal with him. Jesus always is extending redemption over and over again. This is the power of God’s grace in redeeming us, by his mercy rather than our own attempts at self-righteousness.
So now we come to place where Jesus and Peter have THE talk. Peter is bracing himself, ok here it comes. The thought comes to mind of a small child in the Doctors office preparing to get a shot, in the (you know where).
Here is what takes place. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep .Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19 esv)
Some commentaries have stressed the idea that Jesus asks Peter do you love me three times in response to Peter denying Christ three times. However, I believe there is a much deeper meaning here. Jesus is asking Peter to be truly single minded in loving him above all. Jesus does not want Peter to be a double minded man. And then from that position, he is to fulfill his ministry to feed his sheep.