"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.” John 21:15 – 19
The Scripture quoted above is very familiar passage. I’ve read it many times and to be honest I’ve never fully understood it. I’m not trying to say I fully understand it now – because honestly I’m sure there is much more the Lord can teach me through His Word; but, I saw something today that I’ve never considered before.
Remember that Peter was the one disciple that told Jesus that he was willing to lay down his life for Him? “Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.” John 13:36-38
When Jesus was taken to ultimately be crucified Peter started out strong. He pulled out his sword and cut off one of the men’s ears – but later when Jesus was indeed captured, Peter did just as Jesus said – he denied Christ three times! We know that Peter was truly sorry for what he did – he wept bitterly.
We never see a time that Jesus and Peter discussed what happened – (John 21:15-19) is the first conversational exchange between Jesus and Peter we see after the Resurrection. I believe that when Jesus is talking to Peter here He is asking him if he will still say that he loves Jesus with Agape (unconditional) love – Peter then willingly admits that his love has proven to be conditional – when times got tough he denied Christ. Peter’s heart was breaking as he was admitting his weakness – he was grieved when Jesus asked him 3 times to realize his own weakness – but then He told Peter that ultimately he would give his life to honor the Lord.
Jesus is, without condemning Peter, showing him the consequences of his past proud position. Peter is humbling himself to the Lord by admitting that he did not prove himself to be all that he had aforetime proclaimed. And when Jesus is instructing Peter to feed his lambs, the young Christians, and then further instructs Peter to feed His sheep – He is letting Peter know that He is putting His trust in him to be a leader, a teacher, someone that Jesus Himself considers worthy and qualified to care for His own precious lambs and sheep. The difference between a lamb and a sheep is their age. A lamb is a sheep that is under a year old, one that has not yet produced any offspring. A sheep is, well, a sheep.
Jesus further proceeds to let Peter know that when he was young he was leading his own way – that he was proudly proclaiming what he would and would not do – in the future Peter would indeed stretch forth his hands – showing humility, and would have done to him something that he wouldn’t want to be done – but because of his stand for Christ he would indeed glorify God and lay down his life for Him.
I find this so amazing. I have read that passage well over 50 times and have never seen that before! Today, as I came to this realization, I was overcome with God’s amazing grace! Peter had boldly followed the Lord and thought that he was “all in;” he was sure that he would lay down his life for the Lord – but when it came down to it he denied the Lord and even cursed! What a horrible realization!
I am sure that when he saw the Lord he felt shame. He loved the Lord with his own love and failed. God, in this short passage, helped Peter to deal with his pride, humble himself before the Lord, and encouraged Peter to know that God wanted to use him. He let him know that in the end – he wouldn’t fail the Lord. While God was asking about agape love, and Peter was sadly stating the he could now only admit to philos (brotherly) love, God was telling him that he had something to feed to others. God let Peter know that while he was unable or not ready to follow the Lord before- he would indeed follow Him in the future. In John 13 Peter wasn’t ready, in John 21 – Jesus said, “follow me.” God knows when we’re ready.
So often we feel shame or disappointment in ourselves because we ride waves of highs and lows. We’re riding high on faith, and then scared when our faith is tried. I’m reminded that the Bible says, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” Romans 1:17
Faith to faith…when I read that I think of “believing about this” (whatever the current lesson or situation has taught me) – and then when the next trial comes we gain a new faith. We need to understand what happens from faith to faith – it is testing, trials, sometimes doubt. Each test, trial, and lesson gives us a new faith – a new way of “believing about this” than what we previously believed. Peter believed he was ready to die- but through his testing he realized that Jesus was right – he wasn’t ready. Then, after he realized his weakness, and admitted his short comings – he grew in faith and was then ready. What a lesson I have learned from this - and hope that in some small way I can convey to you what God has shown me.
What I see in the Scripture is Peter going from faith to faith. I see Jesus showing His agape love and Peter showing his philos love. I see God’s acceptance, forgiveness, encouragement, and greatness. What a mighty God we serve! Oh, how I love Jesus and pray you will too.
Have a wonderful day!