Encounters with Christ: Peter’s Reinstatement

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John 21:1-25

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?
Yes, Lord.
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.

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71 thoughts on "Encounters with Christ: Peter’s Reinstatement"

  1. Keirsten Rogers says:

    Amen once again this hit the spot!!! God uses our ugly and our hidden shame and guilt to put light on the love we have for him and others and to show that we are more than who we say we are. God is GOOD!!!! ♥️

  2. Naomi says:

    so true!

  3. Peter gives me hope. No matter how much I mess up God’s grace is always more.

  4. Mian Bryant says:

    I’ve royally screwed up certain things in my life. Sometimes my past tries to creep back into my spirit by whispering lies about who I am today. Praise be to God that he saw beyond my foolishness and delivered me to save my future. Restoration is ours for the taking. We just have to ask.

  5. Sarah says:

    There is no doubt that I know the gospel, and there is also no doubt that each time I hear it, it applies to me in a new way. I get caught up in the idea that the gospel is for people new to their faith, that it doesn’t apply to me because I know God. Yet, those moments that I realize that these words were written for me, for everyone, in times of trouble, doubt, and fear, no matter the stage of their walk, is the most freeing thing. I am made new each day through him, and that will never cease. “His power and His love for us are far greater than our sins and shame”. Thank you for reminding me that I am free of my past.

  6. Shea says:

    Oh I get so steeped in shame. Sin has a power if we let it, but hallelujah for a God of grace that reminds us that to him our sin has been wiped away. Jesus gently reminds us that our transgressions do not have a hold on who he says we are now. We are new and free of blemish and we can live with freedom and without fear! Lord thank you!

  7. Shiloh says:

    I’ve heard this story of the Bible so many times, but it has NEVER spoken to me like this has. “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.”

    What an amazing Father we have, that he so desperately seeks to intervene when we are failing to walk in the promise of the Cross. Thank you, SRT team!

  8. Emma Williams says:

    “Despite Peter’s denial, his place in the Kingdom never changed. Jesus’ plan and purpose for him remained the same.”

    Amen that he has a plan for us. I’ve never looked at this passage this way. So thank you SRT! and thank you Jesus for your word that it is alive and true and will never stop bringing revelation, renewal and refreshment into our lives.

  9. Bryce says:

    This devotional speaks volumes to my heart and soul today. This is a visual of God’s unending love and forgiveness that I need to see and remember each day, whenever the enemy tries to rub in my face all of my past mistakes, my shame and guilt. I will think of Jesus and set my eyes on his truth.

  10. KR says:

    Unconditional love and forgiveness. Jesus knew Peters heart like he knows our. Blessed is his name

  11. Marissa Morgan says:

    I love this. Thank you, Jesus, for your grace and mercy towards us!

  12. Emilie Majano says:

    I love that even someone who got to see Jesus still constantly needed his forgiveness and encounter. This is exactly what my heart needed to hear. That I am always desired by Jesus. And that He always wants to take my shame away. He wants to free me. His redemptive power is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

  13. Emily Connell says:

    I imagine Peter with eyes full of tears as He answers Jesus and receives the forgiveness and grace he longed for!

  14. Michelle of Los Angeles says:

    ” 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.” Amen Amen wonderful read today (as always) . I have really enjoyed this season/series from Lent to Resurrection . Thank you

  15. Jodi says:

    aaaaaamen I can identify

  16. Jodi says:

    I love that Jesus had come to remove shame for Peter, and that despite Peters denial, Jesus’ plan for him never changed. the same applies to me. hallelujah

  17. Beverly says:

    I love how Jesus draws Peter back. Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to declare his love for Him three times. One for one. I must admit it would be nice if I could count up all my guilts and shames, and exchange them for an exact dose of reassuring love. To cancel out all the guilt and replace all the shame that I so often find myself pouring over my heart.
    And then I read Isaiah 1:18: “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Jesus invites me to come. To settle the matter. I can bring my sins – my guilt and shame – before Him and leave them with Him knowing, trusting, believing that they are settled. His invitation, His reassurance that they will all be resolved. It may not be a one for one, but it is a glorious promise from my Lord that I can rest my trust.
    So, why does my heart stall? Why do I pray and then doubt? Why do I battle the same struggles day after day? … Maybe I need to answer the same question that Peter needed to answer three times… “Do you love me?” (John 21:16). Oh friends, any time I have felt far from God or undeserving of His gracious mercy, I can assuredly trace it back to a love deficit. He wants my love, my heart more than anything else. How humbling that the God of the universe, our Maker, our Savior wants my love above all else. In the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is to love Him. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30).
    My shame and guilt might feel great and insurmountable and constant. But His steadfast love is that much greater and everlasting and as high as the heavens (Psalm 103). Grateful that He offers His love to me so freely even when I feel undeserving.

    1. Victoria says:


    2. Susie says:

      I love that the Holy Spirit directed you to share Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let’s settle this.”Thanks for sharing. I needed this today.

    3. Rachel says:

      Amen! I needed to be reminded of God’s truth today – thank you for sharing!

    4. Alisa says:

      Amen. Thank you for more insight

  18. Penelope says:

    I’ve always had a peculiar amount of what I thought was ‘luck’ in my life. Despite so many shortcomings, intentional failures, ignoring God, his calling, and my own heart completely most of the time, and being so wayward and lost in my younger years, somehow everything always seemed to ‘work out for me’ somehow. Somehow?? Now that I’m (a little) older, (lol) I finally FINALLY recognize that every time that I ignored God’s call in my life, he somehow managed to whisper in my ear and set things straight for me again. It wasn’t ‘luck’ against huge odds at all. God wasn’t about to let me sabotage the path he had laid out for me, just because I was refusing to pick up the phone every time he rang. It took so long, but now that I have some perspective at last, I look back on my 33 years and can see every time he set me back on my feet, pointing in the right direction, like the parent of a toddler who needs his guidance!

    I have so many blessings in my life that are thanks to God, and God only. May I strive to redeem myself and deserve them in the years to come!!

  19. Louise says:

    Even though the disciples knew Jesus had risen, they still had trouble recognizing him … Mary had trouble at the tomb, on the road to emmaus and in the locked room again difficulty and here on the beach as well. I have heard a theory that more than the scars on his hands and feet Jesus retains the scars of his torture and beating which would have included his beard being pulled out. I realise that it may just be that his spiritual body is different than when he was a man but the possibility that he wears these scars for us astounds me …. What kind of God leaves his heavenly throne, becomes man, is brutally killed then when has conquered death takes time to gently restore those followers who let him down and abandoned him? That is our God.

  20. Steph W says:

    A few commentaries I read pointed out the Greek words for ‘love’ used in the passage.

    When Jesus asks Peter if he loves him vs 15, Jesus uses the Greek word “agapas” a deep love. A supreme love. Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him with a Devine and fervent love more than ‘these’. More than his friends, more than his highest achievement in his career as a fisherman, etc.

    Peter responds “yes, Lord I Love you”. Using the Greek word ‘phileo’ meaning “I’m fond of you” or affectionate towards you.

    That’s not what Jesus asked… So he asks again using the same word “agapas” and again Peter responds the same way “Lord, I’m fond of you”.

    The third time Jesus asks… He uses Perer’s word ‘phileo’. And it grieved Peter! Jesus came down and met Peter on his level. But how amazing that our God loves us so much that he’ll always meet us where we are! :)

    I also was struck by vs 21. Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus again and worries about John. Even after Jesus just reconfirmed Peter’s plans and purpose in life! A great calling!

    I love Jesus’s response “what is that to you?” Aka – Don’t worry about the plans and purposes I have for other people. Just focus on YOUR relationship with me.

    How often am I caught up in other people’s ministries and comparing myself to others. Thinking, I can never be THAT good or have that effective of a ministry. Such a good reminder to not worry about others :)

    1. Allison Palmer says:

      WOW, I love those inputs you have, especially about verse 21! So many times I compare myself to those I do ministry with and think I cant make a difference in others lives or think Im not “spiritual enough” but that verse directly addresses that that is a lie.

    2. ODS says:

      Thank you for posting this. I too remembered the Greek words and wondered why they had not been discussed. So insightful.

    3. Chebett says:

      Thank you for this. I’m always feeling like whatever I do in ministry is largely insignificant compared to other people but all that matters is that God above sees and is happy when I serve Him. Blessings to you :)

  21. Lisa says:

    I have never heard (or had) this specific thought before… Of Jesus’ plan for us not changing because of our shortcomings and failings. It’s extraordinary! And very helpful. Thank you so very much.

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Thanks for joining us today, Lisa! We love having you in our community!


  22. Cecelia says:

    Yes! And amen! Undone by this, this morning.
    His love for us is far greater than our sin and shame!
    “But all the wickedness in the world that man can do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea.” Oh, how He loves us!

  23. Sabrina says:

    Thank you for sharing this. This is the good news- it’s simple and extravagant at the same time. And so unlike the love we know in this world- it is endless and overwhelming. Thank you Jesus! We love your love.

  24. Lauren says:

    Does anyone know why John is called “the one whom Jesus loved”?

    1. Pam B says:

      I think it means that Jesus and John had a closer relationship than that of some of the other disciples. My notes in my Bible say: “The expression does not, of course, mean that Jesus did not love the others, but that there was a special bond with this man.” Jesus did entrust John with caring for his mother (John 19:26) and you would want a close friend for that job. :-)

    2. jeannette says:

      He calls himself “the one whom Jesus loved” because he wrote the book:) there’s another place in John where he and Peter are racing to the tomb and “the other disciple beat him there” (he was bragging about himself winning their little race :) love the bits of humor in gospels! apparently John was a little competitive :)

  25. Caitlin says:

    Thank you, Jesus. I can’t tell you how much I needed to read this today, and how heartbreaking but encouraging it is to see how many others are struggling with the same weight. Thank you all for sharing. May God give us the strength to lay down our burdens for good.

  26. Caroline Harries says:

    Thank you Lord that your love for me outshines my ugly and uncompassionate self. Thank you that you love me just the same.


  27. Amen says:

    This devotional from Our Daily Bread was helpful as I contemplated the meaning of “feed my sheep.” http://odb.org/2008/08/14/feed-my-sheep/

    I am grateful for the courage to share my thoughts and the strength to work with those who need my help. I am thankful that I can research and recognize lessons He teaches me about having compassion and grace towards those why deny Him, and for helping me understand the unconditional love, forgiveness, and hope He offers to everyone.

  28. Rhonda Church says:

    Read this in the morning and tears just poured as It was a glimpse of His mercy and unfailing love..could you imagine being referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loves??..The problem with me has never been that I don’t love Him enough, it’s that I don’t always remember or know how much He loves me.. I loved this reminder..

  29. Elisabeth says:

    Feeling humbled by the love and grace we are given. It’s not God who holds onto our guilt and shame…it’s us…powerful.

    1. Caitlin says:

      Yes! I needed this reminder so much today.

  30. Christina D. says:

    “Despite Peter’s denial, his place in the Kingdom never changed. Jesus’ plan and purpose for him remained the same.” This was profound for me today. Too often I fall prey to the lie that my purpose is contingent on my “good behavior.” Such a ridiculous notion and one that 100% disregards the cross–the whole point of my Savior’s sacrifice and way of my salvation. Praying today that I will live in the truth that truly nothing is dependent on me or my actions. How humbling that my Lord continually gives grace abounding.

  31. Cristine says:

    Wow. Love this. Thank you.

  32. Joy B. says:

    My heart needed to hear this truth today. I, like Peter carry a lot of guilt and shame. And like Peter need my Lord to come and remind me that that is the point of the cross is that I no longer have the carry the weight of guilt and shame. Just like Christ had “immediate grace” for Peter, he also has that same grace for me. I just need to accept it.

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Joy, thank you so much for this reminder! Praying for visibly immediate grace for you today!


  33. Diane Huntsman says:

    The point of the cross, after all, was that guilt and sin would no longer hold us captive.–
    Guilt and shame have been far too familiar to me for far to long..
    I want those two unwanted plaguers to vanish once and for all and yet they keep showing up uninvited.. For all of us today who struggle with believing we are fully forgiven, fully loved, and fully able to live with our heads held high in the clouds of His beautiful grace.. We need to command in Jesus name for shame and guilt to flee.. They have held us captive for far to long and they no longer are welcome in our lives.. Those two accusers stifle us, hinder us, and keep us experiencing the fullness of God in us..together let’s send them packing and begin to live under the freedoms we are intended.. He loves us and as far as the east is from the west, He has removed our transgressions. We are radically loved and radically forgiven no matter how long our record of wrongs is. He forgets about that list, may we forget it too. Bless all of you guilt and shame inflicted sisters! Let’s get rid of that baggage today!

  34. Melissa says:

    Whenever I read about Peter, I think about the song from Casting Crowns called ‘This Is Now’. It’s based on Peter’s story about how Jesus changes him and how Peter witnessed so many amazing things by following Jesus and that he swore he would never be the same, but as we know Peter denies Jesus. The song goes on to say ” just when I thought my sin had closed the door, I see my Savior standing on the shore just like the first time he called my name…” It’s so amazing how Jesus can pull us out of our shame and guilt!

    1. Jennifer says:

      What a wonderful song, thank you for making this connection!

  35. Rachel Wagner says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever looked at this passage as a passage of restoration and freedom, but it truly is! I loved this statemeant in the devo, “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.” God is not the author of shame and guilt. He doesn’t want us to re-live our sin and mistakes or let them keep us from His good for us. The sacrifice on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus is our FREEDOM!

    He made a point of going to Peter to restore the fellowship that Peter thought he had jeopardized. He came to Peter to let Peter replace those three statements of denial with three statements of love for Jesus. Jesus wants us to live in freedom! What a Savior!!

  36. Amy says:

    I find it interesting that when Peter confirms his love for Jesus (“Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”) Jesus replies so promptly with “feed my lambs.” Earlier, before His death, He had said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). Later, John would write, “Let us not love in word or in talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18). How do I know I love Christ? Because I obey Him. I allow Him to change me; I choose patience instead of asperity; I accept the work He has called me to do and fulfill it faithfully. This comforts me today because sometimes I don’t feel the same love for Him that I used to. Sometimes (like today) I just feel dry and withered inside. But love isn’t defined by my emotions, is it? Love is a choice, to serve and honor another before myself. When I seek Him every morning, even if I don’t feel like it, that is loving Christ. When I deal with frustration cheerfully because I know it pleases Him, even if I don’t feel that overwhelming affection for Him that I have in the past, I know I love Him because I am choosing to obey Him for no other reason than that it pleases Him. Someday, the emotions will come back; but let it be true of me that I loved my Lord even when it wasn’t easy, when I didn’t feel like it, because real love is so much deeper and stronger than feelings alone.

    1. Megan says:

      Amy thank you for taking the time to post! This really hit home with me. I often don’t feel or even know where I stand in my faith but I do have a tiny grain of faith that I pray he waters. I often tell people that the love we find in marriage is also a choice. It isn’t based on how I “feel” because that is fickle, it is a daily decision to stay committed, loyal and loving so your analogy really drove home with me. God bless you sista.

    2. Jami says:


  37. Becky says:

    Thank you lord that you took all my shame and guilt in the cross. Help me to not walk in it, but in victory. Amen.

  38. Marcie says:

    Three years earlier Peter had been called to follow Jesus and become a fisher of men. He had left his “regular” work for a new purpose. My thought today was one I hadn’t considered before. Jesus’ questions to Peter, were they a reminder of the work he was to do? Peter wasn’t to be a fisher of fish any more. Just because Jesus earthly ministry was over didn’t mean he was to give up his calling and return to the sea. They sought the familiar to sooth them, sure. They also sought the familiar to again provide for their needs. When they go to shore Jesus already had fish cooking and bread besides. He demonstrated that He was still providing for their needs and that their work wasn’t over. Even when Peter had strayed and denied, his work wasn’t over.

    1. Jenna says:

      Wow! I love this. Jesus was still providing for their needs after His resurrection, just as He was during His time on Earth.

    2. SusieT says:

      I’d never thought of it this way, Marcie. What a beautiful reminder of Jesus’ love and provision for us! Thank you for sharing.

  39. churchmouse says:

    ‘The point of the Cross is that guilt and sin would no longer hold us captive. ” That sentence this morning! Thank you for it. Too often I hold tightly to my failures, not forgiving myself. May I look always to the Cross and hold tightly to the grace found there. A costly grace for Him. An incredible gift to me. Grace. Gratitude. I’m bowed low this morning.

    (may I add, thank you SRT, for providing ‘breakfast’ with my Savior each day? So deeply feeds my soul)

    1. Sue says:

      I too love having breakfast with our Savior and all of my Sisters each morning.

  40. Buttercup says:

    I love this song by Matthew West.


  41. JessHH says:

    I love the reminder that God’s plan for us doesn’t change. It reminds me of the Jonah study we did earlier, because even though Jonah ran and tried to avoid his calling, God still sent him to Nineveh. He easily could have chosen someone else at that point– it would have been justified. And Jesus could have chosen someone other than Peter. But God chooses to redeem His people instead of replace them. These acts of God have spoken to me in some struggles I’ve had with parenting. There are many times I’ve felt that I’m just not equipped to deal with the kids I have (they are wonderful, but challenging!), but God put me in this position as their mom and He continues to use me and refine me despite my failures. He is working in my life in so many ways, and I’m just so thankful He doesn’t give up on me even when I deserve it. His grace is amazing!

    1. Carolyn says:

      “Jesus chooses to redeem His people instead of replace them.” Ah, what a beautiful illustration of His amazing grace. Thank you for that!

  42. Kristine L says:

    What a beautiful story. I love that, after denying him three times earlier, Jesus has Peter declare his faithfulness three times. And just like Peter said, Jesus already knew Peter’s heart. He wasn’t asking for His own sake, he was asking for Peter’s sake. What a beautiful savior we have, what a gift that was to Peter. And knowing how Peter liked action (ahem, cutting off ears) Jesus then gives him a job to act upon – feed the sheep, spread the love, tell the world. This story is a great reminder to me that Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher or mighty savior, he was a very real friend. I pray that I can feel His love in that tangible way as Peter did.

  43. ~ B ~ says:

    The thing that I have always loved about this portion of John is the beauty between Jesus and Peter in relationship. Don’t we all long for friendship so dear that we have heartfelt exchanges and unprovoked forgiveness? The thing is, we have this. We can insert our names in place of Peter’s because this is how personally Christ sees our relationship. One in which He loves us so greatly that His affection for us has Him not only defeating death but afterwards HE prepares breakfast and sits with us in a peaceful exchange of amnesty. In our moments of questioning if Christ is with us, we must hold this scripture in our hearts and minds. Relationship so pure and genuinely simple that He is with us in all things, including breakfast!

    1. Abby says:

      Love this reminder!!!!

  44. Malisa says:

    Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times, giving Peter the chance to confess Christ for every time he denied Him. Today I’m reminded that Christ does the same thing for me. There is not one single sin that His blood and resurrection does not cover. Every time I sin, He gives me the gift of the chance to repent and turn back to Him. And Jesus didn’t just restore Peter to a neutral standing with Himself — He called Peter to even deeper growth and leadership! When we have turned back to Christ, He doesn’t want us to carry around our old shame or a spirit of timidity. He wants us to seek Him even more intimately and to be a vessel of the love and grace He has shown us, pouring it out on others to make His name great!

  45. Jo says:

    When Satan tempts me to despair,
    And tells me of the guilt within,
    Upward I look, and see Him there
    Who made an end to all my sin.

    Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the One,
    Risen Son of God!


  46. TGBTG says:

    “His power and love for us are far greater than our shame and guilt. ” Thank you, Lord for loving me so much.

  47. Jaime says:

    Probably one of my favorite parts of the gospel is this beautiful interaction between Peter and Jesus. I can just imagine the grief and guilt Peter must have been carrying around.

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Yes! I love this so much, Jaime! Thanks for joining us today, friend!