“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, 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.’” (John 21:15 NKJV)
The disciple is faced with the hardest inquiry of his life conducted by Jesus. “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Jesus’ use of the Greek term Agape is troubling for Peter and is reflected in his use of the Greek term Phileo, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
Peter’s fear to declare his unconditional love for Jesus is obvious. He is fearful of loving the Agape style. He fears a bigger mess if he commits with his whole heart . . . or promises a 100% commitment . . . or no holding back. Three denials is pretty bad and he remembers that those three were not his first missteps: In Matthew 16 he took Jesus aside to rebuke Him, only to be met with Jesus’ “get behind me Satan;” On the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17) scene he was talking when he should have been observing and listening; or remember in Matthew 26 he fell asleep when he should have been praying in the Garden of Gethsemane; and in the same chapter he promises to never leave Jesus, to die with Him and NEVER DENY HIM! Resurrection Morning he was missing and the women had to go get him AND his brethren. Peter is afraid to go in full throttle.
He doesn’t trust himself to love with his whole heart . . . The pain of failure runs too deep; the sorrow of disappointing a friend is too much for him. And trust is a necessary element of love without which one’s relationship is greatly compromised. The results can be devastating with fear as the focus and the loss of joy and fulfillment in any relationship!
But finding the freedom to love again is what Peter will need in order to overcome his faults, failures and fears. If he is to rise above them he has to talk with Jesus, answer His inquiry, and listen to the Lord’s freedom in loving him so that he may love Him again. His effectiveness in serving God as a disciple/Apostle will be compromised as long as he is afraid to love with a whole heart.
This CONFRONTATION between Peter and Jesus is needed! Jesus calls Peter out because they need to have a face to face, man to man. The Lord’s love for Peter is demonstrated in orchestrating the encounter. It has to happen for Peter to walk in the freedom to love again. Secondly, it is a CONFIRMATION between brothers! Jesus confirms with Peter that he is more valuable than his denial and Peter needs to confirm his desire to serve Christ. He wants to serve the Lord but he is fearful. He needs to admit to his overwhelming weakness in those moments of denial. Peter needed to hear a personal COMMISSION to the work of ministry. Peter, I still want to use you in the kingdom. I have work for you to do . . . with your denial . . . with your weakness . . . with your mess-up. You are still valuable to the Lord. This ‘Come to Jesus’ conversation is demonstration of His unconditional love for Peter (and the rest of us). Peter, it’s okay to love Me! Peter it’s alright to embrace Me with your whole heart. PETER!!!!! It’s okay to sacrifice everything to work for me in the kingdom! Peter, it’s okay to be 100% with Me. It’s okay to leave all to follow after Me. It’s alright for you to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow after Me, with all your faults, with all your failures, with all your mistakes, with all of your rebellions . . . I’ll still take you! Feed My sheep . . . Tend My lambs . . . Shepherd My people!!
God’s love for us is greater than our faults and failures? He has in Himself enough grace, mercy and love to still embrace us after we mess up?
That’s what the cross was all about? I suffered through Thursday night and Friday morning for the sins of the world, and for you, Peter! Friday was about your redemption! Sunday morning is about new life and new possibilities for you and anyone who has faith to believe!
Peter receives a new freedom to not only love with a whole heart, but the needed power to stand and associate himself with Jesus unlike that fateful Thursday night when he denied the Lord. He was filled with the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost amazingly took center stage under the power of the Spirit to preach the first sermon that day. 3000 souls committed their lives to Jesus Christ because one man learned to love again!
You are free to love again, even after your misstep. The freedom to love again is realized once one realizes that Jesus’ Agape embraces us after a fall. Get up, confess up, and love again!