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Read John 21:7-25

Do you truly love me more than these?” (John 21:15)

How wonderful for the disciples to have Jesus show up and turn the whole thing around, after such a bad night. When John says: "It is the Lord!", Peter, in his usual impulsive manner, jumps out of the boat to get to Jesus as quickly as possible. His denial of Jesus must have been weighing very heavily on his mind, but he had to wait until they had all finished breakfast before Jesus spoke directly to him.

In this beach scene, Jesus removed the cloud of Peter’s denial. Peter had denied Jesus three times. Three times Jesus now asks Peter if he loves Him. Peter had given up a lot to follow Jesus and he thought he would have a leading position in the new kingdom of God. (Luke 9:46) Even after he had received the revelation of who Jesus was (Luke 9:20; Matthew 16:16), Peter had very little understanding of what was going to happen and the kind of kingdom of which Jesus was head. (Luke 9:33; Matthew 16:23) As he got to know Jesus, he loved Him more and more until, eventually, his outspoken, growing devotion led him to follow Jesus and defend Him, whatever the consequences. (Luke 22:33)

Then came the denial! Just when he thought he was so strong, he let Jesus down and the whole world has known about it ever since! It is one thing to say that we love Jesus, but the real test is our willingness to serve and obey Him. (John 13:14-17) Peter had repented (turned back) and now Jesus asked him to commit his entire life. Peter had been transformed: his occupation changed from fisherman to evangelist; his identity changed from being impetuous to being a "rock" and his relationship to Jesus changed from that of a sinner to being a saint. He now fully understood the significance of Jesus’ words about His death and resurrection. He too was learning to die to himself.

Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. The first time Jesus said, “Do you love me more than these?” (In the original Greek, the word translated as "love" is "agape", signifying volitional, self-sacrificial love.) When Jesus asks Peter this question the second time, He still uses the Greek word "agape" but, the third time, Jesus uses the Greek word "phileo", signifying affection, affinity, or brotherly love. In answer to the first two questions, Peter responds using the Greek word "phileo" but, on the last occasion, he also uses the word "agape". Jesus doesn’t settle for quick, superficial answers. He has a way of getting to the heart of the matter. Peter had to face his true feelings and motives when confronted by Christ.

Jesus wanted Peter to understand that he was forgiven, but also that forgiveness has to be worked out in a changed life, with fresh direction showing the complete change of heart that has taken place. Jesus wants to hear Peter say that he loves Him more than any other person, but also more than the potential of his fishing business. Was Peter really willing to put Jesus first, over and above potential wealth, success and position? Jesus’ questions really pointed out to Peter where the dangers of returning to fishing lay.

When Peter started to follow Jesus initially, he had new goals and priorities, but he kept following, even though he didn’t always understand and often stumbled. He did not become a perfect person overnight, but this only encourages us as Jesus obviously recognised his potential. Jesus chooses people who will be changed by His amazing love, who can then be sent out to communicate that His acceptance is available to all, even those who keep stumbling. Now Jesus is asking him to keep following and to obey His command: to go to the upper room and wait for the "Comforter". (Acts 1:4) How do you respond when Jesus asks you: “Do you love me (agape)?” Do you really love Jesus?

Peter was concerned with his self-image. He did not recognise how wonderful it was that Jesus had chosen him; that Jesus saw him as valuable - as God’s work of art. He responded all the time by comparing himself to others, which is a killer to any good self-image but also showed his lack of confidence in himself or in Jesus’ love for him. If Peter had had confidence in his calling, he would not have had to worry about his position. (John 18:10) He could just have rested in it and left the problems to Jesus. Even after Jesus tells him the kind of death he would experience, he still asks about John and what is going to happen to him. Jesus replies that Peter should not concern himself with that. We tend to compare our lives with those of others, whether to rationalise our own level of devotion to Christ, or to question God’s justice. Jesus responds to us as he did to Peter: “What is that to you? You follow me!

“Feed My sheep.” (John 21:17)

Jesus appeared to the disciples on many occasions after His resurrection, proving that He was alive. The resurrection made such an amazing change in the disciples’ lives. At the time of Jesus' death, they were scattered, disillusioned and feared for their lives. After seeing the resurrected Christ, they were fearless and risked everything to spread the good news about Him around the world. They faced imprisonment, beatings, rejection and martyrdom, yet they never compromised their calling. They knew that the resurrection had taken place and that Jesus really had been raised from the dead. They were all fired with the enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit to go out and make disciples for Jesus Christ.

Peter demonstrates the amazing change in his own life when he gives the first recorded sermon. (Acts 2:17) An ordinary, uneducated fisherman stood before a large crowd and was able to recite Old Testament scriptures from memory to prove to the people that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. He pointed out that they were responsible for His death, but that it was all part of God’s plan. God indeed had raised Him from the dead and given the Holy Spirit to those who followed Him. Peter’s words produced the results that Jesus predicted (John 16:8-11) and the same crowd that had been shouting: "Crucify Him!" fifty days before, were now cut to the heart with guilt and repentance and asked the most important question anyone can ask: “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

Newly empowered with the presence of the Holy Spirit in his life, Peter boldly said to them: “Repent, and be baptised.” (Acts 2:38) Peter went on to show the real change in himself - from wimp to warrior - after the baptism of fire at Pentecost. He was used by God to bring about the first miracle of healing in the Church (Acts 3:6-7) and he and John were the first people persecuted for speaking about Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 4:3) Peter was able to stand before the Jewish authorities and give a clear presentation of the good news about Jesus. He stated openly that they had crucified their only chance of salvation. (Acts 4:12) The warning that Peter and John then received (to no longer talk about Jesus) only served to make them bolder. (Acts 4:31)

Faced with a decision

Tradition indicates that Peter was crucified for his faith upside down, because he did not feel worthy of dying as his Lord had done. John, after spending several years as an exile on the island of Patmos, returned to Ephesus, where he died as an old man near the end of the century. John’s stated purpose for writing his "gospel" was to show that Jesus was the Son of God. (John 20:31) He clearly and systematically presented the evidence for Jesus’ claim. When evidence is presented in a courtroom, those who hear it must make a choice. Those who hear or read the good news contained in John's "gospel" must also make a choice: is Jesus the Son of God or isn't He? We may or may not face having to do jury service during our lives, but all of us have to make a decision about Jesus.

When we are born again, we are made joint heirs with Jesus. He went to the cross to give to us what He already possessed. He rose again so that we could be recreated in His image. We are the victory of Almighty God! We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. We are everything to the Father that Jesus is. “I in them and you in Me... I have loved them even as you have loved Me.” (John 17:23) God loves us as much as He loves Jesus! Once we dare to accept that fact, our lives will be changed for ever. We’ll no longer be satisfied to just sit around wishing that things were different. We shall want to step up and accept the position of authority that Jesus has given us, to take our rightful place beside Him and to learn to operate in the way that He does. As His people, we are everything to God that Jesus is. If we will receive that message; if we will dare to believe it; if we will dare to put it into action, it will radically alter our lives. It will take us from religion to reality!

The evidence has been clearly presented and there is no sitting on the fence. We must decide.

Read John’s gospel and believe!


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