“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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.”-John 21:15
After the group finished breakfast, Jesus turned His attention to Peter. It became, painfully obvious, very quickly, that Jesus’ visit to them (this third time) was because Jesus and Peter had some unfinished business.
It had not been that many days ago, that Peter, who once declared his unwavering allegiance to Christ; scurried off into the night heartbroken after denying Jesus three times. Upon finding him back at his old trade, Jesus begins to question Peter’s love for Him.
Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me?” The first time Jesus poses the question He uses the Greek word agape. This term for love means unconditional devotion. However, when Peter responds he uses the Greek word phileo which is more of a brotherly love. It is interesting that Peter is much more reserved in his proclamation of devotion to Christ.
The second time Jesus asks Peter the question, Jesus again uses the word agape; to which Peter once again responds with the word phileo. Finally, Jesus asks Peter one more time if he loves Him. This time Jesus uses the word phileo, to which Peter responds, “Lord you know all things, you know that I love you.” The scriptures tell us that when Jesus asked the third time that Peter was grieved:
“He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love me?”-John 21:17
Peter understood the significance of the question being asked three times. It was a plain reminder of the previous three-times he had denied Jesus.
Have you ever mad a mistake you just can’t seem to put behind you? A grand mistake that has caused you so much shame that you believe God cannot bear to love you again. Peter made a lot of mistakes! On more than one occasion he was caught arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, he was among those who fussed at Mary when she broke the alabaster jar on Jesus’s feet, he even cut off a man’s ear! However, it was when Peter denied Jesus three times; that he began to question his own worth, love, and loyalty to Christ.
I can only imagine how Peter felt after being asked repeatedly by Jesus if he loved Him. He had to remember the immense shame he felt after he had denied Jesus publicly. Because of this, Jesus used this public occasion to restore Peter; to declare to him in front of everyone that God wasn’t done with him yet! Three times He told Peter, if you love me then feed my sheep. Jesus was challenging Peter to focus his eyes on the work ahead an not on his past failures.
Jesus even went as far as to share with Peter the cost of accepting that mission. It would ultimately mean his own crucifixion (John 21:18-19).
In this dramatic moment, Jesus posed these last words to Peter; “Follow Me.” Years before He called Peter to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-19), now Peter knew that continuing to follow Jesus would mean a certain death. Peter was once again challenged to follow his Lord!
Perhaps you have made one of those grand mistakes; a mistake that has caused you so much shame that you believe God cannot bear to love you again. Can I tell you that God can restore you! Perhaps you feel as though God has forgiven you, but He can never use you again because of what you did! Can I tell you that God is calling out to you to feed His sheep! Perhaps He called you once to follow Him and you did, but somewhere along the way you got off track, can I tell you that Jesus is calling out to you today to once again follow Him!
Pastor Scott Burr
Dayspring Community Church