Reading Time: 7 Minutes
Nobody likes being told that they are going to be a failure, especially by your best friend. Yet, this is what Jesus told Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”
Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22.31-33).
Later that day, Jesus was arrested and during one of his trials, Peter failed his best friend and denied knowing him. Luke records the moment, “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22.61-62).
Before we read how Jesus restored Peter, let’s ask if there is anything good that can come from our failure. One instance that comes to mind is a story Jesus told about a tax collector and a religious leader. Jesus examined the prayers of both men.
The religious leader prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men . . .” (Luke 18.11). I still remember the day when it dawned on me how often I pray like this man. I am pretty subtle and self-deceptive when I pray like this. Yet, I must admit that my inside condition resembles this man all too often.
I am thankful for my times of failure that remind me that I am like other people and not superior to them. When I catch myself praying like the religious man in Jesus’ story, I quickly tell God I am sorry and re-adjust my prayer.
The tax collector knew he was a failure. He was basically a cheat and a traitor to his fellow citizens of Israel. He “would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18.13).
For everyone who senses their failures in life, the final major episode in the Gospel of John should be very encouraging. There is hope for all of us who have failed, if we recognize our need and respond to Jesus’ love.
The Grace of Restoration
John 21.1, 15-19 – After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.
15 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.”
16 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.”
17 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.
18 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.” 19 (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.”
I wonder what was going through Peter’s mind while they shared breakfast with Jesus. As he flashed back to the three instances of denial that were indelibly imprinted in his memory, his heart must have broken with shame and regret.
Jesus restored Peter by giving him three opportunities to replace his denials with affirmations of love. Jesus didn’t stop with forgiveness. He reinstated Peter’s role as an important member of the team of people who would continue his ministry.
Beyond Forgiveness to Service
Restoration goes beyond forgiveness. What if Peter had accepted Jesus forgiveness and gone back to his fishing business? What if he had neglected Jesus last words to him, “Follow me” (verse 19)? Here is a very brief sample of what Peter experienced, as he joined the continued ministry of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
— Acts 2.1-41 – Peter was present when the Holy Spirit came upon the church, resulting in 3,000 new people entering into a life-changing relationship with Jesus in a single day.
— Acts 3.1-10 – Peter was able to see a paralyzed beggar brought to full health, as he was healed in the name of Jesus.
— Acts 4 – Not everything was easy for Peter. He experienced the kind of opposition that eventually led to his martyrdom.
Our Call to Follow Jesus
For us, the forgiveness of our sins is a blessing beyond words. Yet, if we stop with just being forgiven, we will miss the experience of a lifetime.
Use your imagination and think about Peter once again. Suppose he returned to a successful fishing business, raised a couple of children, went to church on Sundays, but did nothing more. What would he have missed? Persecution, beatings, martyrdom. Yes. But, he would have also missed thousands of lives changed because he responded to Jesus’ two word invitation, “Follow me.”
What about us? Now that we are forgiven, how can we follow Jesus?
Peter and the other disciples didn’t go charging off under their own direction. The followed Jesus’ words, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1.8).
They waited for the Holy Spirit’s leadership and power. If we ask for the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, he will give it to us. Who could have planned all of the life-changing events of the Book of Acts? However, as forgiven and restored people served Jesus, the Spirit accomplished mighty things.
As we surrender to the guidance and power of God’s Spirit, only God knows what will transpire. Let’s diligently pray for the leadership of the Spirit, especially during this corona virus pandemic. As we follow Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit, we will see God write new history of his love and grace through us.
New Study in the Book of James
Thank you to all of you who have joined me in this study of John’s Gospel. It is hard to believe that we began this study just a few short weeks ago. John is such a magnificent book and we have only skimmed the surface of its message. I hope you will join me and return to John many more times in the future.
We will begin a study of the Book of James tomorrow. James was one of the first books of the New Testament. It was written by Jesus’ brother who was, like Peter, one of the major leaders of the first century church.
Dear Jesus, we marvel at your love. Praise you for your forgiveness and restoration of people who fail. Thank you for involving us in your continued ministry to the world. As you call us to follow you, we respond by saying that we will follow you. May your Spirit empower and direct our ministry during this time in history.