We last left Peter in a state of sorrow and despair. On a night when Peter needed to be courageous and faithful to Jesus, Peter faltered. His fear of other people, his fear of pain and suffering culminated in his denial of even knowing Jesus three times. Peter ran off in despair of his condition and in despair of being faithless. But the story of Peter’s life isn’t actually all about Peter. Peter’s life was about what God did in his life. The most unexpected and surprising event in Peter’s life was when Jesus rose from the dead. Had Jesus stayed in the grave, we would not be hearing about Peter. But Jesus was about to do an act of restoration. Peter’s relationship with Jesus was not over. And what comes next is the gospel in action.
After Jesus rose from the dead, Jesus spent several days visiting and teaching the apostles. At one point, Jesus proposes to the other disciples that they go fishing at the Sea of Galilee. John tells us that the disciples fished all night but caught nothing. When morning broke, a man on the shore called out to the disciples and asked them if they caught anything. The disciples replied no. The stranger then tells them to cast their net once again and the disciples obey. At that point, the disciples haul in a huge catch of fish-153 into their boat. Immediately, one of the disciples announces that the stranger is Jesus. In typical fashion Peter impulsively puts on his outer garment jumps into the water and swims to shore.
The boat comes in not long after that and the disciples find a charcoal fire with breakfast prepared by Jesus. It is here where John describes one of the most famous scenes in the New Testament. After breakfast, Jesus turns, looks at Peter and asks three times whether Peter loved him. The charcoal fire, the morning sunrise was almost a reenactment of that night where Peter denied Jesus. Three questions match three denials. This was a deliberate way of Jesus addressing Peter’s failure and restoring him.Peter responds, “Yes Lord, you know that I do.” By the third time, Peter is hurt, and reaffirms his love for him.
After each response, Jesus tells Peter, “feed my sheep”. What did Jesus mean? Peter’s purpose and mission along with the disciples was to teach and strengthen the believers. Like a shepherd, Peter was to follow the instruction of the Chief Shepherd and care for Jesus’ people. In the future, when things get difficult, Peter cannot abandon the sheep. Jesus tells Peter that he will be lead where he does not want to go. John tells us that Jesus told him this to help him understand what kind of death Peter would undergo to glorify God. Jesus then tells Peter, “Follow me.
Not long after that, Peter would stand in the middle of the very city where Jesus was sentenced and crucified. He would not cower in fear, but Peter would be empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the resurrection of the living Christ.Tradition has it that Peter was about to leave a city where he was about to face persecution, but has a vision of Jesus carrying his cross. Peter then submits himself to those who were going to persecute him. Finding himself unworthy to die the same way Christ was crucified, Peter was crucified upside down.
Peter’s restoration was an act of grace by Jesus. It is a moving story of love and restoration. However, it is more than that. Peter’s story plays out the gospel story. It is in keeping with Jesus’ character. Jesus’ restoration of sinners is why Jesus was crucified. Here was Peter a flawed sinner. But Peter served a great and merciful savior. The gospel is about God’s work of restoration of sinners into a right relationship. This promise is not only for Peter but also for anyone who would look to and trust Jesus.
This is also hope for anyone who seeks to serve God. Jesus not only restores Peter, but he uses Peter for the work of His kingdom.Jesus chose Peter and the apostles to carry out the work of bringing the gospel to all the nations. Jesus does the work of redemption and uses our stories to spread His Kingdom. The tremendous grace of God is that God uses sinners, makes them saints, and uses them to spread his kingdom. This message is worth remembering. It is also worth spreading.