The Renewal of God’s Leadership Call
John 21 has to be one of the most heart-touching scenes in the four Gospel records… only found here in John’s account… not in Matthew, Mark or Luke. It is the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection. They are all together on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Peter has made the decision to turn away from his calling from the Lord Jesus to be a fisher of men. He is returning to his previous vocation as a fisherman. Peter’s leadership is in evidence here, for when he said to the other disciples, “I am going out to fish,” they all said, “We’ll go with you.”
But that night, they caught nothing. (Symbolic of the futility of life when we forsake God’s calling in our lives?)
Peter’s decision was no doubt related to the biggest failure of his life and the subsequent regret. He had been warned by Jesus that he would deny Him three times. Even with the warning, Peter did the unimaginable. After once saying, “I would die for You, but I would never deny You!” He repeatedly denied he even knew Jesus… and the third time with a curse. He probably used words that he may have used as a fisherman, but had never used for three years with Jesus as a fisher of men. It is so often true that, like Peter, we are set back by our lapses in judgment, our guilt, our shame, our failure, our disappointment in ourselves. We are too often dependent on our performance and independent of His amazing and empowering grace. Now Jesus is going to demonstrate His matchless grace in an act of forgiveness and reinstatement of Peter’s life purpose. Since Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus gives Peter three opportunities to reaffirm his love and devotion. The first two times Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
He used the word for love that indicates complete self-sacrificing devotion, but Peter answers him using word for love that indicates friendship. Think of it this way: Jesus asks, “Peter do you truly love me?” Peter answers, “Yes Lord, I really like you.” The third time Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you even like me?” It was a moment of truth for Peter. In his brokenness and humility, he responded, “Lord you know all things, you know that I truly love you with a self-sacrificing love.”
A little over a month later, Peter would stand up in the city of Jerusalem, where he denied that he even knew Jesus and proclaim, by the power of the Holy Spirit, “God has made Him [this Jesus whom you crucified] both Lord and Christ!” That was the Day of Pentecost when the church was born and the global revolution of grace and righteousness, of which we are apart, along with billions throughout time, actually began.
At the end of Peter’s life, he was martyred for preaching Christ. According to tradition (not in scripture), knowing he himself was destined to be crucified, Peter requested to be crucified upside down, because he said, “I am unworthy to die in the same manner as my Lord.”
Self-sacrificing love for Jesus indeed! He was faithful to His calling until the end of his life. May we who lead follow Peter’s example.
May we have the endurance to live for and faithfully serve Him with the same devotion and passion!