By Ellen Ceely
“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. . . .When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘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.’ 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.’ 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. . . . And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” (John 21:-11a, 15-17,19b)
Just as our passage did yesterday, this one makes me laugh. Peter abandoned the others so he could get to shore first. But when Jesus asked them to bring him some fish, Peter went on board and hauled the net of fish off the boat all by himself. I like to imagine how insistent he must have been to do it himself and what the other disciples thought as he continued to try to prove himself to Jesus.
Once they finished eating, Jesus gave Peter the attention he so badly desired. He asked Peter three times whether Peter loved him. Not long before, Peter had denied Jesus three times, and I can’t help but wonder if that was why Jesus repeated his question three times. Maybe it was a way for Jesus to have the difficult conversation with Peter about his betrayal in a way that wouldn’t crush a man already obviously keen to prove his loyalty once more.
Peter answered “yes” every time. Then he pointed out that Jesus already knows everything—so why was he asking? I believe Jesus was asking for Peter’s sake. Peter needed to hear himself say that he loved Jesus. He needed Jesus to remind him of what it meant to follow him and be his disciple. Peter needed to remember that loving and believing in Christ is not about impressing God with your zeal or energy but about loving him with your whole heart. Peter needed the gentle reminder that his faith should be lived out—by feeding God’s sheep and following Jesus. As we’ve said all week, faith sees with open eyes. Peter’s eyes of faith needed some help refocusing.
How’s your faith? Do you feel focused, or have you lost track of Christ in your pursuit of the things he’s called you to? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Could you use some hope right now? Join Peter’s first audience—“elect exiles” undergoing persecution—and experience the apostle’s powerful call to follow Jesus in the midst of life’s challenges, knowing your Living Hope is not a distant one, but a daily, glorious, life-giving reality! This unique six-week small group Bible study, A Living Hope: A Study of 1 Peter, helps you uncover the priceless promises written specifically to the struggling and the hurting, with pastoral gentleness and bold confidence for the future. This study of 1 Peter will help you become utterly convinced that Jesus is the only sure, true, incorruptible, and permanent hope for you.
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