Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John 21:15-17

In this scene between Jesus and Peter, at the campfire on the beach, Jesus extends His amazing grace to Peter as He affirms Peter’s place in ministry. Remember that, only hours after Peter boldly claimed that he would never desert Jesus, Peter denied Jesus three times to a servant girl at another campfire. I love how the LORD calls Peter back again here:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” 

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” 

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” 

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” 

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” 

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."  (John 21:15-17)

Peter had denied Jesus three times, so here Jesus gave him three times to declare his love for Jesus. Two different words are used for love here. In the first question, when Jesus asks, “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus uses the word agape, which indicates an unselfish, unconditional love, the kind of love God has for us. He’s asking Peter, “Do you still think you are more devoted to me than to anything else or more than anyone else is devoted to me?”

Peter responds with, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” This is a brotherly love. Why didn’t Peter respond back using agape? Jon Courson suggests that Peter finally knew that he could not respond truthfully with that kind of godly love, because he had already come up short. He knew he did not have it in his own power to promise that kind of devotion. Possibly, he finally had been humbled enough to understand his limitations.

Jesus responds by giving Peter a mission: Feed my lambs. What a great honor to be given the task of looking out for the first believers. Peter would, indeed be one of the first church leaders. In fact, he was the first to preach the gospel after Pentecost (Acts 2), when three thousand become believers!

Back to the campfire. Jesus asks Peter a second time, “Do you agape me?” And again Peter responds emphatically, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you.” And again, Jesus confirms Peter’s ministry: Take care of my sheep. Tend to their needs, Peter.

Finally, Jesus asks Peter a third time if he loves Him, but this time Jesus meets Peter where he’s at, and in his question, He uses Peter’s word: “Do you phileo me?” Don’t you love that He doesn’t demand that Peter be perfect before He will accept him? Jesus takes us right where we are. He doesn’t ask us to clean up our act, because He knows we can’t! That is what He does for us! Peter would come to the place of agape, but not through his own efforts. The LORD would be doing a heart transplant on Peter, as He has promised to do with us:

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
 (Ezekial 36:26)

This is such an encouraging, sweet picture of restoration for Peter, whom Jesus loved so dearly. And it’s exactly the same kind o restoration He does with us. Even though we may have gone for most of our lives denying Him, when we finally come to the campfire for fellowship, Jesus accepts us just as we are! Look at this great invitation:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

This is the open invitation He extends to each of us. Have you responded yet?

I’m so grateful that John did not finish his gospel without including this scene!  

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