The Restoration Of Peter
“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.” — John 21:17
As Peter stood on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, his mind flashed back to that horrible night. It had been the darkest of nights. It had been the worst of moments. The memory remained, freeze-framed in his mind. Since then, Peter had remained but a shadow of his former self.
Failure has a way of ripping any fabric of self-confidence from a person. It steals the energy and drive for the Lord and His work. What Peter thought he would never do, and what Peter swore he would never do, is exactly what he had done. How many times have we ourselves boasted inwardly or out loud, “I’ll never do that!” Then, a short time later, we find ourselves doing the very thing that we had confirmed so arrogantly that we would never do.
Peter told the Lord that he would never deny Him. He swore that he would die before disallowing His Lord. To his credit, in the garden that night when the soldiers had come, Peter had drawn on his fleshly strengths and struck out with a sword, only to be rebuked by Christ. All of the others had simply fled.
However, the story didn’t stop there. He and John had followed closely on the heels of the soldiers, down to the house of the high priest. They had waited in the courtyard to see what the results of Jesus’ arrest would be. There Peter was confronted and in a short few minutes, he had denied the Lord three times. When Jesus turned and looked at him, Peter could not bear it. He swiftly departed from the courtyard, broken-hearted, horror-stricken, and unbelieving that he had done what he had just done. He had denied his Lord; not once, but three times.
Our failures have a way of attaching themselves to our hearts and minds and forcing us to relive them again and again. Sin is a powerful enemy. It seeks to make fools of all of us. Sadly, there has never been a man born, with the exception of Christ Jesus, who has not fallen prey to sin’s insidious designs. At one time or another, we all fail.
That particular incident ended even worse than it began. Jesus had been condemned, scourged, and crucified. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had retrieved the lifeless body of the Christ and placed it in a garden tomb. The disciple that had betrayed Jesus (Judas) had committed suicide. The helpless, hopeless disciples huddled together in a room behind locked doors, fearing for their lives.
Then, three days later, women came from the tomb with a strange story. They said that Jesus was alive. Others said they had walked and talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Then, the moment came when Jesus Himself appeared in the middle of the locked room where the disciples hid themselves. Faith came alive. Yet, almost as quickly as He came, He disappeared. The temporary assurance and hope slipped quietly away.
Thomas, a member of their intimate group, refused to believe what the others had seen. Faith faltered. Then, a week later, Jesus appeared to them a second time. He told them once again to go to Galilee and wait for Him there at a place previously appointed.
All of these thoughts crossed Peter’s mind as he stared out over the Sea of Galilee. It had been nearly two weeks since the death of Christ, and the disciples had traveled there, only to be held in suspense, waiting and wondering. Seven of them stood by the sea with Peter and heard him say, “I go a fishing.” This was more than a declaration of fishing for a need for food. Jesus had called them to be “fishers of men.” However, when faith in what Christ has promised falters, we are prone to forsake the calling on our lives and resort to our own methodologies for survival.
When Peter stated that he was going fishing, he was really saying, “I guess we must have been mistaken. We really didn’t see the Lord. It’s all over, boys. Let’s head for the boats and do what we know how to do. There is no sense waiting on the Lord. I’m afraid He’s not coming.” So, they took to the boats, fished all night long, and caught absolutely nothing.
Whenever we rely upon ourselves, our own abilities, our own insights, and even our individual strengths, things don’t turn out too well. That is especially true when Christ has called us to the work of the ministry, and we fail to attend to that call because of a failing on our part that has produced a lack of faith. Failure always steals hope from the one who fails.
After fishing all that night, they had nothing to show for it. Near daybreak, a stranger stood on the shore and suggested that they throw their net on the other side of the boat. They did so, and immediately, the net became unmovable. What was happening? Had they snagged the nets on some unseen, sunken debris? As they applied more effort, the net began to rise, and it was overloaded with fish.
When we follow the instructions of the Lord and do what He says, there will always be success. When we do things our way, the nets remain empty.
When Peter realized it was the Lord standing on the shore, he threw himself into the water and swam toward his Master. After dining on the substance that the Lord had prepared, Jesus looked at Peter and asked him a question: “Do you love me Peter? Do you love me more than these?” The memory of his failure leapt to the forefront of his mind. In his sorrow and embarrassment, Peter refused to express what he really felt. He was afraid that he might fail again after expressing his devotion to the Lord.
Jesus asked Peter the same question three times. He followed each question with a statement: “Peter, feed my sheep.” Jesus was letting Peter know that the calling that rested in his heart had never been rescinded because of his failure. In his own special way, Jesus restored Peter in that hour. He was always meant to be a fisher of men.
The confidence that Peter gained from this restoration encounter stayed with him the rest of his life. In just a few days, the power of the Holy Spirit would fall upon Peter in a special new covenant way. The one who had denied and denounced the Christ became the leading voice of the early church.
What Jesus did for Peter, He will do for you. If you have faltered or failed in your calling, confess that fault to God and heed the clear, clarion call of Christ to feed His sheep. In Jesus name, rise up in the power of the Holy Spirit and make full proof of your ministry! The gifts and callings of God are without repentance.