Encounters with Christ: Peter’s Reinstatement
Open Your Bible
Text: John 21:1-25
As darkness settled, Peter decided to go fishing.
Maybe he thought it was the only thing left that he could control. Jesus, whom he loved, had died and risen again. He was overjoyed in knowing his beloved teacher and friend was alive, but guilt-ridden after denying Him (John 18:15-27). His shame had led him here, to familiar waters. With a few trusted friends by his side, Peter pushed off from the shore.
Venturing out into the night, I imagine he looked for solace in the stars. Perhaps he hoped his old everyday routine would bring comfort. He cast his nets far to the left of the boat, but it was a no-go—the expert fisherman couldn’t catch a thing all night (John 21:3-4).
As the sun rose, they drifted toward the beach and looked up to find the Son of God standing on the shore, though they didn’t recognize Him.
“‘Men,’ Jesus called to them, ‘you don’t have any fish, do you?’
‘No,’ they answered.
‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat,’ He told them, ‘and you’ll find some.’ So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. Therefore the disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” (John 21:5-7).
Right then and there, Peter jumped into the water and swam to shore. Despite the angst in his own heart, he couldn’t help but be drawn to another encounter with his Savior and friend. However, there was still unfinished business between them. Before sending him out into the world to help rescue the souls of unbelievers, Jesus would gently restore Peter to Himself (Matthew 18:16-20).
Jesus had a feast waiting for them upon the shore—breakfast a la cookout, I like to call it—a hearty portion of grilled fish and bread, prepared for everyone (John 21:12-13). After they ate their fill, Jesus and Peter stole some moments alone. Jesus had come to do for Peter what He longs to do for each of us: He had come to remove Peter’s shame.
And so for each of the three times Peter denied Him, Jesus asked:
Do you love me?
Feed my lambs.
Do you love me?
You know I love You.
Shepherd my sheep.
Do you love me?
You know everything. You know that I love you.
Feed my sheep.
(John 21:15-17, my paraphrase)
What I love most about this exchange is Jesus’ immediate grace toward Peter after the resurrection. Jesus knew Peter would likely carry the shame and guilt of his denial for the rest of his life, unless He intervened. The point of the cross, after all, was that guilt and sin would no longer hold us captive.
The resurrection power of Jesus sought Peter out, reminding him of everything they’d ever known in their friendship. First, Jesus once again confirmed His love for Peter, and allowed Peter to express his love in return. Then, He gave Peter instruction on how to further this message of love, the gospel. Despite Peter’s denial, his place in the Kingdom never changed. Jesus’ plan and purpose for him remained the same.
When I think of all the ways I’ve blown it, the innumerable ways my actions should’ve thwarted God’s plan and call upon my life, I’m exceedingly humbled. In spite of our shortcomings, God promises to complete His good work in each of us (Philippians 1:6). His power and His love for us are far greater than our sin and shame.
This is the good news! This is the gospel.