Read John 21 (Click to read passage)
No study that covered the events of Jesus’ resurrection would be complete without studying about how Jesus restored Peter (otherwise known as Simon). The Apostle John ends his gospel with Jesus’ interaction with Peter. Jesus had already revealed himself alive to the disciples. One morning, Peter decided to go fishing. A few of the other disciples agreed to go with him. They fished all night and were not able to catch anything but as the sky brightened and the sun broke through the horizon, they could see a man on the shore. Not knowing it was Jesus, the man asked if they caught any fish, to which the disciples answered, “No”. Jesus told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat but the disciples were not able to haul the nets in because of the large catch. Someone told Peter that it was Jesus. Peter as per his personality, put his shirt on and jumped into the water to see Jesus. The disciples joined them soon afterwards.
Jesus already had a charcoal fire going with some cooked fish and bread. In spite of the disciple’s failure the night Jesus was betrayed, Jesus made breakfast for them. No one asked who he was. They all knew.
After breakfast was finished, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” The charcoal fire and the cool morning air must have brought Peter back to the night Jesus was put on trial. Without hesitation, Peter said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus told him, “Tend my sheep.” A third time, Jesus asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” This time, the question grieved Peter. It was three times that Peter denied Jesus. Now it was the third time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus. “Lord,” he replied, “you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus replied to him, “Feed my sheep.”
What was going on? Likely Jesus was bringing Peter back to that moment. Smell has a strong connection with memory. Peter likely smelled the charcoal fire, felt the cool morning breeze and the food in his belly and was brought back to that night, the night where he had denied even knowing Jesus. He did it three times. Here Jesus was restoring Peter. But Jesus wanted to demonstrate his love in a practical way. There was nothing that Peter could do to pay back to Jesus what Jesus did for him. But Peter would be tasked with loving and caring for those whom Jesus loved. Peter would need to shepherd those who put their faith in Jesus. He would need to teach them about Jesus. He would need to care for these people and explain what it was like for someone to be forgiven by Jesus.
Jesus would explain to Peter that in the past he would dress himself and go wherever he wanted. But now as someone who loved Jesus, he would stretch out his hands and be dressed by another and carry him where he does not want to go. John tells us that Jesus was telling Peter how he would die in order to glorify God. And according to tradition, Peter was caught and crucified upside down.
John ends his book by telling Peter to, “follow me!” Peter in a moment of curiosity asked Jesus about John and said, “what about him?” Jesus probably sighed and said to Peter, “If it’s my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” I like to imagine the book of John ending with Jesus and Peter walking along the shore having a private conversation about what Jesus wanted Peter to do. But the call for us as believers is the same as Peter’s. We are all forgiven sinners. We are sinners who have been made saints by the blood of Christ. Each of us are called to follow the Master where he leads.
Questions for Meditation:
- Is there a sin that you are embarrassed about? Is there something that would make you uncomfortable if you were to admit it in front of other people?
- As you think about this sin, how would you feel if Jesus were to ask you, “Do you love me?”
- How would you feel if Jesus were to prompt you to “follow me!” Would you be hesitant? Would you be fearful?
- How does Jesus’ treatment of Peter and His promise to be with us bring you comfort?