Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

20. From Failure to Fellowship – Part 1

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John 21:15-22

15 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.16 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.17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.18 “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.” 19 Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”20 Peter turned around and saw behind them the disciple Jesus loved—the one who had leaned over to Jesus during supper and asked, “Lord, who will betray you?” 21 Peter asked Jesus, “What about him, Lord?”22 Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.”

As we continue in John chapter 21 we see how the Risen Savior not only has the power to deal with ourdoubts and our disappointments but also our disgrace. You see Jesus doesn’t just handle our fears but also our failures. It’s here that Jesus not only shows us forgiveness but gives us an example to follow as He not only confronts and forgives Peters failure, but He calls and commissions Peter to faithfully follow and to feed His flock. It’s here in Johnthat we see three calls from Christ, the first is to:

  1. Love Lavishly

After breakfast is over, Jesus publicly forgives and reinstates Peter. This doesn’t just benefit Peter it provides us with a practical plan on how we should forgive. People are watching and how Jesus handles Peters failure provides them with a blueprint of forgiveness. There on the beach after breakfast as Peter smells the fire and feels its heat, he is probably reminded of how he warmed himself next to the fire in the courtyard right before he denied Jesus three times. Instead of making a statement Jesus asks Peter a personal question. Now there are a lot of things that Jesus could have said to Peter. He could have responded with rebuke and retribution. He could have treated him with silence and given him the cold shoulder. He could have said, “You know, Peter, normally I would have asked you to feed my sheep but…I just don’t trust you anymore.” He could have brought up Peters failure and flung it in his face. He could have talked to the other disciples about it, but He chose to talk to Peter not about Peter. When Jesus sat down with Peter, He didn’t condemn him or insult him or reject him. Instead Jesus invited Peter to sit and eat with Him and then Jesus asks Peter a question 3 times: do you love me?” Why would Jesus ask Peter the same question 3 times? Well it’s worth noting that this is not the only time Jesus had to repeat Himself 3 times in Peters life. In Acts 10 when God calls Peter to preach to the Gentiles He has to send the same vision to Peter three times before Peter responded. Jesus could have asked Peter anything, He could have done some teaching, or told a parable, but He chose to ascertain Peters love level. Because if you don’t love Jesus nothing else matters. You see in Matthew 22:37 when Jesus summarized the entire list of laws in the Old Testament He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”as the premier commandment. Now while this conversation was in Aramaic, John records and reveals it to us in Greek, which has three primary and very different words for love. One refers to romantic love and is not used here while the other two terms are. The first is agapao, unconditional love, used to describe wholehearted devotion. It’s the kind of love that is spelled out in 1 Corinthians 13:7-8: “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”The other form of love that is used is phileo, brotherly love, a fondness that is found among friends. It’s the word we would use when we say that we “like” someone. You see in the first and second questions, Jesus uses the word agapao: “Peter, is your love unfailing? Does it persevere? Is it selfless?” Jesus cuts to the core because He is asking Peter if he still believed that his devotion was deeper than the other disciples: “do you love me more than these?” Notice that Peter doesn’t even attempt an answer to this part of the question because he knows that he doesn’t even come close to unconditional love. Peter is honest and uncharacteristically humble in his response you see it is through his failure that Peter begins to realize that he has a fickle heart. It’s when we face our failures and stop faking it that we discover our frailty and His faithfulness. It’s here that Peter discovers his and our greatest problem, pride. But Peter didn’t just discover the problem he discovered the solution dependence on the Savior. King David never thought he would commit adultery and murder, Solomon didn’t think he would ever engage in idolatry, Moses hadn’t planned on killing someone, Jonah didn’t think he’d ever run away, and Peter couldn’t imagine that he would deny his Lord. We are all prone to pride that is why we need to be vigilant and be on guard just as 1 Corinthians 10:12 reminds us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” Like Peter we need to learn to be honest with the Lord. While he refers to Him as “Lord” in all three of his responses, Peter could no longer promise uncompromising devotion. He wished he could say that he loved Jesus, but instead he says he likes the Lord. That is why when Jesus asks the third question in verse 17, he uses the term for brotherly love. Jesus is basically saying, “Peter, do you have affection for me? This hurt Peter because Jesus was coming down to his level. You see the tears that flowed after Peter denial Jesus and he went outside and wept bitterly are now starting to fall down his face once again. Repentance is painful, our sin leads to sorrow as Hebrews 12:11 reminds us: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”Repentance without pain is not repentance its regret and the reason why many of us never change is because while we have regret over our sin we don’t have repentance. We are sorry we got caught but are we sorry over the sin? What about you, do you love God lavishly? What is the depth of your devotion? Are you completely committed to Him? If not, admit it. Put into words where you are really at with Jesus. When you do, Jesus will not only meet you where you are, but He will bring you to where you need to be. Notice that in all three responses, Peter affirms that Jesus “knows.” He knows what, the worst about him and still loves him. When we’re that honest Jesus can restoring our relationship so that we can once again become a devoted disciple. Through the repetition of the same question, Jesus is revealing the depth of Peter’s repentance. What about you, what do you value most in life? Possessions? Power, position? Is there anything or anyone you are loving more than you love the Lord?

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