Day 5

Encounters with Christ: Peter’s Reinstatement

from the The Resurrected Life reading plan


John 21:1-25

BY Rebekah Lyons

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. 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:

      Amen!

    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

  2. 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!!

  3. 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.

  4. 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 :)

  5. 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!

      xoxo-Kaitlin

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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 :)

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