This passage is entitled, Peter’s Restoration, (NLT Study Bible) and, Jesus Reinstates Peter, (NIV). Last month, on the 24th of May, I commented on Peter’s denial of Jesus happening almost immediately after having said that he was ready to die for Jesus. Here, in the passage below, Jesus invites Simon Peter to reaffirm his love and commitment to Jesus once for each of his denials. Also, after each affirmation, Jesus reiterates his commission to Peter for him to lead his sheep – that Peter should lead his new church. I have always been moved by God’s awesome capacity for forgiveness, and for me, this is one of the strongest examples in the whole Bible. Imagine the heartbreak you would feel if your closest friend, on being questioned about your character by the press, over some salacious, unproven allegations, then angrily denied they had ever met you for fear of being associated with you. How easy would it be to forgive them later, when you had been proven innocent of the accusations and vindicated in the press?
John 21:15-19 NLT
After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.
Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus had asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”
As we read this passage with a complete overview all the events, we can see Jesus’s gesture of forgiveness clearly for what it is. But In the moment, Peter was hurt. Peter had failed Jesus in his darkest hour, and now, as Jesus forgives him and lifts him up higher than any of his other followers as the first leader of the church, he fails to see it clearly himself. Then Jesus hints at Peter’s glorious death, probably by crucifixion, and remembering Peter’s claim that he was ready to die for Jesus, tells him one final time to follow him. My goal, as a man who constantly fails to live up to the standard set by Jesus, is to take inspiration from Peter, who also failed. But who, nevertheless, was forgiven by Jesus and called again to follow him.
2 Samuel 19:11-20:13, John 21:1-25, Psalms 120:1-7, Proverbs 16:16-17