Tests for Service

Peter is my favorite disciple. I am always encouraged to see how God can use an impulsive, unschooled fisherman who has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth. One of my favorite passages is the restoration of Peter. Not long after having  passionately professed a willingness to die for and never forsake Jesus (Matt 26:33,35), after the contingent of soldiers and temple guards arrested Jesus, Peter three times denied knowing him.

I see myself in Peter because I know in my heart I love Jesus but there are times when I behave like I don’t know him, not by my mouth but by my responses to trying circumstances. When face to face with one who behaves like an unwarranted enemy in exchange for the perceived good I have given, my mouth can go ahead of my head faster than I can utter “Dear Lord!”  The beloved daughter of the Lord of Lords can behave like some alien. Cock-a-doodle-do.  A big oopsies yet again.  (You see, Lord, sometimes the things we go through are difficult. At times I think it is because I am your friend so I admit it has crossed my mind to un-friend you from FB. But I realize all people, whether your friend or not, will go through trials but the difference for those who believe in you is that you, your love and power, are there to journey with us.  Plus, we have the promise that all things will work out for good even if at the moment they look icky.  You are the best friend there is.)

How did Jesus restore Peter? Did he accuse with a pointing finger and call him viper or whitewashed tomb as he did the Pharisees? In John 21 we find that Peter, the fishing specialist, led an all night fishing trip whose harvest was: zero. Then a man from shore called out to them to put their net on the right side of the boat. When they obeyed, their catch was so bountiful that the disciples couldn’t haul the net in. When passionate Peter realized it was Jesus, he jumped into the water and swam to shore while everyone else stayed on the boat.  Waiting for them was breakfast Jesus prepared of fish and bread, reminiscent of his miracle to supernaturally feed thousands. Peter was the fishing specialist but he needed the grace of Jesus to succeed. (One can not rely on flesh for strength and success.)

In Luke 24:34, Jesus had a one-on-one with Peter after his resurrection but on this day, Jesus would restore Peter publicly into service. No blaming, no shaming, no foul-naming, no mention of the word “failure or denial”.  In Matthew 16:16 in the earlier days of Jesus’s minstry, when Peter  (then named Simon) acknowledged Jesus as “Messiah, the Son of the living God”, Jesus had given him his new name (with his new character), Peter. But this day, Jesus addressed him by the name of his old nature, Simon. What kind of restitution and firmed recommitment might Jesus ask Peter? Here come the surprising questions:

John 21: “Simon son of John, do you love <agape*> me more than these?” *unconditionally love

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love <phileo**> you.” **brotherly love < Peter now has more realistic, reserved expression of his love for Jesus after having experienced not carrying through with his professed promises>

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love <agape*> me?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.” “Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said.

17 A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love <phileo**>me?”

 Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.

Jesus asked not for focus or repentance or confession but a key question for the heart… “do you love me?” Three times, one for each denial.  In John 15, Jesus teaches how love for him translates into obedience.  We see that Peter failed yet Jesus was able to restore him. God will look at our hearts. (1Sam 16:7). When we fail, we can confess our sin(s), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1John 1:9) Please see related post “Failure, Failure, Failure”.

Jesus’s charge to the imperfect man who failed him was to take care of his people.  Wow, God does not need a person who is perfect and together and who always passes the test. Like Peter, you and I have hope that God can use imperfect people like you and me for his good purposes.

SONG: USE ME (Ron Kenoly)

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