This is Peter’s story: the emotional drama of how Jesus tenderly restores him, renewing his calling to follow… to minister… and to lead. How does Jesus do this?
Firstly, by the miracle of the large catch of fish (John 21:1-14), re-enacting Peter’s first encounter with Jesus, thus renewing his call to follow, form and fish (Luke 5:1-11).
Secondly, by making a fire of burning coals, re-enacting and reversing Peter’s threefold denial, which took place around a fire (read John 13:36-38 cf. John 18:15-18, 25-27).
Reflection: Jesus takes us back to unresolved pain and failure, to relive and resolve it in light of his intervening and healing presence. When & where has this happened for you?
Meditation on John 21:15-23: become silent before God; live into the scene by imagining you’re Peter around the fire, now warm and fed. Jesus probes your depths… the key issue is: Jesus wants to know if you truly love him – love for him to be THE motivation for your life, your following of him, your ministry, and leadership (if you’re a leader)
John 21:15 Why did Jesus use his full formal name, Simon son of John (after he had changed his name to Peter – ‘rock’, strong & stable, John 1:40-42)? Does God ever do this to you?
John 21:15 What did Jesus mean by “do you truly love me more than these?” His boats & fish? Or his friends & family? Or more than the other disciples loved Jesus? See Mark 14:27-31 (the disciples ‘peer rivalry’, John 13:37-38 cf. John 15:13, 20:3-4, 21:20-22, Mark 10:35-44)
John 21:17 And why did Peter “hurt” (same strong word used in John 16:20 for their “grief” at Jesus’ death) the third time Jesus asked him the question? Was it because he was reminded of his threefold denial of Jesus? Or was it due to the change of words that Jesus used for love in his third question (Jesus uses phileo, the word Peter used in his replies, “you know I phileo you” – after Jesus had twice asked him, “do you agapeo me?”).
John 21:15-17 Why did Peter answer the way he did (“Lord, you know me… I do love you”)? His heart is read. He faces his bitter failure, appeals to God’s knowledge and forgiveness rather than to the relative strength of his love (compared to the other disciples).
Jesus’ healing psychology is to press Peter to say aloud three times (to re-commit), “I love you”, reversing the three verbal denials, “I don’t know him”. Then more grace: to show forgiveness and restoration Jesus gives Peter a threefold commission: now that you’re in touch with, and honest about, both your weaknesses and love for me, I entrust my sheep (church) to you! “Feed” and “take care of”, “lambs” and “sheep”, are synonymous; i.e. they’re not different ministry roles and people categories. Jesus says “feed my sheep” right after he (miraculously) fed them – Jesus is Peter’s model of ministry – ours too!
John 21:18-19 Why did Jesus then tell Peter what’s going to happen to him, in contrast to his earlier life? Think deeply about these most amazing words. What does it mean for you?
John 21:19-23 Why did Peter concern himself with John’s destiny? Note John’s ‘comparative language’ in explaining his own position – why?
Do you compare yourself to others? Or do you overly concern yourself with others? Why not take responsibility for your own life?