John 21 pt. 2

jesusandpeterPeter has been wrestling with a deep need to be approved of and Jesus has remained strangely silent.  We can assume that Jesus is suspiciously silent for a deeper purpose, as almost everything Jesus does in the Gospels has deep implication.  I think Jesus was deeply connected with the pain Peter was feeling.  He certainly knew that Peter was torn up.  He must have seen the zeal with which Peter ran to grab the fish!  Yet He remains silent.

The weight of shame must have been great on Peter.  To know that you rejected the Messiah in His darkest hour must have been unbearable.  So, how is Jesus going to show Peter the grace necessary to move beyond this crippling need to prove himself?  Breakfast!  Jesus cooks breakfast!  I like to think Jesus was a good cook and that the food He cooked tasted great…  but that’s just me.  So after breakfast, Jesus sits back and this conversation follows:

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”  – John 21:15-17

Did you notice that Jesus is not using the name He gave Peter?  Instead, He uses “Simon.”  Peter must have felt that burn…  He probably felt like he was unworthy and he was no longer allowed to bear that name.  Jesus, I believe has something else in mind.  Peter gets asked the question three times!  The same number of times that he rejected Christ, the same number of times that Christ has now revealed himself in this gospel, the same number…  Peter must have felt that as well.  In the original language, the first two questions are slightly different than the third.  The first two times Jesus asks to you love me with unconditional love (agape).  Peter answers each time, “I love you with familial affection” (Phileo).  On the third time, Jesus says, “do you love me with familial affection.”  You can imagine Peter beginning to cry as he realizes what Jesus is doing.

You see, Jesus was not picking on Peter.  Jesus was answering Peter’s soul need.  He is showing Peter the balm for his soul need.

  1. Think back to when Peter was first following Jesus in Luke 5.  The same miracle is done.  So, here Jesus reminds Peter who He is for Peter.  The first thing Jesus teaches Peter in this passage is: Jesus meets you in your labor and He is Lord over it and you for your good and His glory.
  2. Next, notice that Jesus did not need the fish the disciples caught.  He already had breakfast going on the fire.  But he tells them, “bring some of the fish you caught.”  Peter runs to get the net and Jesus was showing the second lesson:  Jesus delights in your efforts.  Jesus values your efforts and work, even though He is God and does not NEED it.  He values you and loves your work for him.
  3. Jesus includes Peter with the rest of the disciples.  We often want to be singled out, but Jesus knows what is good.  He purposely does not single Peter out as leader but identifies him with his brothers.  In this way Peter is rescued from the accusations of the other disciples and the self-doubt that might have consumed him.  And therein lay the third point: You are a part of a community that Jesus loves and you don’t need to bear the weight of failure alone.
  4. Then Jesus calls Peter, “Simon.”  This is not a scathing rebuke.  Jesus calls him Simon to alleviate the responsibility from him while simultaneously letting Peter know that Jesus is not done working in him.  When Jesus met Peter in the Gospel of John He, almost immediately renames him.  Here Jesus lifts the burden of living up to that name.  Jesus calls him Simon to let him know he was loved from the beginning and he will be included even if he can never measure up to the name Jesus has for him.  It is not Simon that makes himself Peter, but Jesus who does that.  Peter probably took it as a rebuke at first, at least until he heard the last question.  But the fourth lesson is: Jesus continues to work in you in spite of all your failures.  He loved you when you were Simon and He is not done working in you.
  5. The question of love is a profound one.  Two times Jesus essentially asks “do you love me no matter what?”  Peter responds, “You’re like family!”  Then the final time, Jesus asks, “do you love me like family?”  Now it is tempting to think that Jesus is beating up on Peter, however, Jesus is meeting Peter on his level.  When Jesus asks the first two times the word is detached from emotional affection.  When Jesus asks the third time he articulates a familial affection in the word “Phileo.”  By asking it this way, Jesus effectively tells Peter that he is family.  The fifth point: You are part of Jesus’ family, no matter what you have done.  He has loved you unconditionally and, more than that, he loves you with familial affection!
  6. The final and most evident balm for Peter’s soul is the call to the mission.  Jesus calls Peter to the mission of shepherding the flock of God.  He says, “feed/tend my sheep.”  Peter stands wondering what his value is in the Kingdom, Jesus goes out of his way to send message after message of love and grace to Peter, and finally, Jesus gives him a commission of utmost value!  Jesus commissions Peter to shepherd along-side the Messiah (the Good Shepherd, John 10)!  When you feel like you have failed the Lord and your life is simply inadequate, hear this last balm for your ailing soul: focus on the mission of God, He has commissioned you to something great and calls you to work!


Perhaps you’re in the same place Peter was.  I know I have been there.  Take heart, Jesus has work for you to do!  The easiest way to overcome the feeling of failure is to work and watch the Lord use you.  What Joy!

John 21 Pt. 1

Jesus eating fish

You ever have the unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach. As if you have done something wrong but can’t quite figure out what it is? Maybe you know exactly what it is, but you don’t know how to fix it? You worry that everyone is watching and everyone knows whatever it is you don’t. You become snippy with people who pass by and you think that there must be some sort of action that you can take that will heal this issue. The person you are certain you have offended suddenly becomes the single greatest judge in your life and the object of all your efforts of approval. That feeling in the pit of your stomach can be paralyzing. I think that’s the feeling Peter was wrestling with in John 21.

Peter failed Jesus. He failed Jesus in the most grievous way! Peter denied Jesus as Jesus walked to the cross carrying Peter’s sins. When Jesus rose, he didn’t show himself to Peter first. Peter could have let his mind wonder why? He saw Jesus with the other disciples, but Jesus didn’t really recognize him. Peter wouldn’t dare to say something in front of others until acknowledged. His offense is too great. So… it’s been several days since the disciples have seen the risen Lord and I imagine Peter is waiting for Jesus to say something like, “hey buddy, I love you. We’re good, don’t sweat it.” He hopes for a nod, he longs for a fist bump, anything to tell him it’s ok. But, he gets nothing. Jesus has returned, He has shown Himself, and Peter has yet to be affirmed. Imagine the depression.

So… what do we do when we have this feeling of complete and utter failure in our stomach and no resolution? We fall back to what we have done in the past. So, Peter goes fishing! I think his friends must have felt the uncomfortable tension in their most braggadocios leader. They all acquiesce to his desires and go fishing.

Well, Jesus is not done dealing with Peter. Jesus has purpose for our struggles for approval. There is a great deal we can learn. He shows up on the shore where they are fishing and repeats a miracle they had seen before.

While they are in the boat he calls to them and says cast your nets on the other side! They do and they get fish. How comforting to know that Jesus will continue to show himself to us in ways that work for our own needs. The disciple whom Jesus loved says, “it’s the LORD!!” Without hesitation, Peter puts on his cloths and dives into the water to swim back. Now at this point, the other disciples must be a little annoyed at Peter’s attempt to reconcile himself. It’s always like that when you know someone is irrationally trying to reconcile himself to an authority. From the outside, it looks like they are simply being annoying. They neglect chores and duty for the sake of proving themselves in some drastic way! The conversation probably went like this:
Disciple Jesus Loved: Check it out it’s Jesus (turns to get the net), help me dra..(hears a splash), Wha!? Hey! Get back in the boat and help with the fish! Ahhh.. it’s no use.

James: Dude, what did you say to Peter?

DJL: Nothing, I just said it’s the Lord and he jumps out of the boat!

Andrew: would you guys stop yapping about captain mopey and get over here and help!

So they drag in the fish and row back to the shore. At which point Peter stands up and runs over to the boat to grab all the fish hastily and drags it to Jesus as if to say, “look! I have caught all these for you!” What’s funny, is

Jesus already had fish. He has a fire set and is already cooking fish and bread, but he asks for their fish anyway. You see, Jesus values our efforts, even when He does not need them. He still wants them, He still loves our work, He values you. The first lesson Jesus is showing Peter, is “I’m still here.” No matter what you have done, you cannot drive the LORD of heaven away from you and you cannot drive away His love. The second lesson is that Jesus values our work, even when it is inadequate.

So Peter struggles to earn the grace that Christ has given him and He sits down to eat with the King of all Glory, the King that Peter failed. Peter has been confronted with a reality, he cannot fix what he has done. He cannot change it. He cannot earn the grace that Jesus keeps on handing him. So, what is Peter to do? He sits, eating fish, awaiting his head nod. He waits for an, “it’s ok buddy.” He waits for some acknowledgement of his approval and forgiveness. Jesus will give him the most powerful antidote for his affliction and indeed the most powerful antidote for our own struggles with depression, in the next passage. But more on that later.