Jesus’s Final Invitation
Open Your Bible
John 21:1-25, Hebrews 2:17-18, 1 Peter 5:1-4
The Gospel of John reveals some of Peter’s greatest missteps and moments of weakness, from a failed water-walking attempt to cutting off a man’s ear. His darkest moment came when he denied being Jesus’s disciple. But for all of his fumbles and failures, Jesus never rejected Peter, even after Peter’s vehement rebuttal. It’s clear in John 21 that the relationship between Master and disciple is restored.
It’s an early morning of breakfast and conversation, seaside. Three times Jesus questions Peter’s love for Him, echoing Peter’s trilogy of denials in the previous chapter. Jesus’s responses involve calling Peter to care for His sheep, for His Church. It’s a redemptive moment for us, as we see that Peter has been forgiven and included in Jesus’s plans for His kingdom.
Jesus also reveals a hard truth: Peter’s future martyrdom. We shouldn’t see this as a punishment for earlier mistakes, since Jesus doesn’t give any indication of this. Neither does He elaborate on the details or even the time frame regarding the end of Peter’s life. Instead, He issues both an invitation and a command.
“Follow me.” —John 21:19
Jesus places how Peter will die in the context of how he should live. “Follow me.” This two-word sentence is the driving theme of Jesus’s directives to Peter. When we reflect on the conversation in whole, we are reminded of what it means to say yes to Him. The call to follow Jesus is a commitment to discipleship, a commitment to live out the gospel in a world that is opposed to the message of hope.
“Follow me.” Jesus’s instruction to Peter isn’t just a one-time action. In the original Greek reading, the phrase carries the meaning of repeated action. Each day that we live is an opportunity to embrace the invitation to follow Jesus, to love Him deeply, and to serve Him wholeheartedly.
Perhaps when reading John 21, the revelation of Peter’s death alarms us, maybe even disturbs us. Jesus refuses to shield us from the truth. As His disciples, we will encounter hard seasons and challenging times, often. But whatever interval of life we go through, we submit to His will. Jesus knows from experience what opposition, what pain, what grief feels like. And “as our merciful and faithful high priest” (Hebrews 2:17), He is with us, infusing us with the strength to endure all that we face.
Other Scriptures, including Peter’s writings, reveal to us that Peter remained faithful to Jesus’s call to “shepherd my sheep” (John 21:16). Echoing Jesus’s words, Peter encouraged other leaders to “shepherd God’s flock” (1Peter 5:2), overseeing God’s people with care and compassion.
We may not all hold a formal leadership title. But as members of God’s flock, He has commissioned each of us to follow Him, to carry out whatever He has entrusted to us. And Peter promises that when our chief Shepherd returns for us, He will reward our faithfulness (1Peter 5:4).