15 So 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, “Tend My lambs.” 16 He said to him again 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, “Shepherd 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
Growing up in the church I have heard many messages on Peter’s motivation and behavior in the 21st chapter of John. I’ve always read and interpreted the chapter/verses a bit differently than most. My intent here is not to begin a theological/ideological battle. I am not going to compare and contrast my thoughts with other more educated theologians; I’ll only share my perspective, as if I were Peter let’s say.
But I’m Broken, God…
Have you ever felt that God was calling you to be a part of something great, something mighty for His Kingdom, but did not know how to begin? Or, perhaps you’ve had the feeling that you were unworthy of the calling? This is how I imagine Peter felt after his betrayal of his Lord. He wanted so desperately to follow Jesus; to be a loyal subject as he had always told himself that he was. But in the back of his mind he could still hear that ol’ rooster. None of his closest friends, nor even his brother knew that he had messed up so badly, and not like all the other times. This time was different. Peter knew the seriousness of his failure. He had broken even his own heart. He was not the person that he thought he was, or least that is what Satan was whispering in his ear.
Peter needed some quiet time. He needed time alone with God. And where had he seen God move in the mightiest ways? When he was in a boat. He remembered that is where Jesus had said He would make him a fisher of men. Peter had even walked on water, at least for a few steps. So he decided to go fishing. When life is seemingly too much to bear, I go for a run. It is my quiet time with God. No distractions. It is there I can focus on listening to His voice. I believe that is what Peter was doing. He was replaying the events of the past few weeks in his head, and asking all of those “What if” questions. You know those questions. What if I had only…, What if this, or What if that. By daybreak I believe that Peter fully realized his situation. He needed forgiveness.
When John tells Peter that it is Jesus on the shore, Peter jumps in the water to swim to Jesus. Never one to second guess his first instinct, Peter knew that he had to get there first. He wanted a private moment between just Jesus and himself. Maybe Peter was not as young as he used to be, or maybe just because the boat was not that far away from shore, but by the time that he caught his breath the others were there too. Peter held his tongue. What would the others think? Isn’t that how we feel about our own personal shortcomings? “I can’t admit that.” “What will my family, my friends, my co-workers, or my fellow Christians think about me?” So he waited.
As the others in the group were enjoying breakfast on the beach, the questions started. I think Peter’s heart sank the first time Jesus asked, “Do you love me more than these?” Perhaps he felt unworthy, but to keep up appearances Peter responded, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus asked again. This time, tears began to fill Peter’s eyes, as he knew what he should do. What he truly wanted and needed was forgiveness, but he still could only respond with “Yes, Lord”. And then came the third time. Despite Jesus’ very similar commands after each response from Peter, this time was different. Jesus knew about the denial. Of course He knew, He had told Peter that it would happen. Jesus knew, but wanted Peter to be restored. As Peter began to understand this, the tears that flowed from his eyes were ones of relief. He knew he was forgiven and must continue in his original calling.
When God gives you clear direction, follow that path even if you fall in the ditch. Remember, God knew you would trip and fall before He ever called you. He is ready to pick you up and set you straight on the path again. His forgiveness lines the trail; all we must do is humble ourselves and ask. Don’t let doubt, fear, or pride hold you back from the wonderful blessings that God has in store for your life.