So 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, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again 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, “Shepherd 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!”
– John 21:15-19 NASB
The incident described above took place during the forty-day period between the day Jesus was raised from the dead and the day He ascended into heaven. Jesus appeared to His disciples over these forty days in a variety of settings – some of them involving eating meals together. This was to give the disciples “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3) of His resurrection. Their faith in Him would be severely tested; He wanted them to be sure of what they were sure of.
After Peter’s notable failure to stand up for Jesus, he and the others probably thought he had disqualified himself for leadership in Jesus’ movement. In this poignant exchange, Jesus makes clear that this was not to be. On the contrary, Jesus re-commissions Peter in front of the others, making clear that Peter’s failure was a stumbling, not a fall.
Peter ultimately died by crucifixion himself – thus fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy above just as Peter’s denial had fulfilled a prophecy of Jesus. Peter’s stumblings are on full display in the New Testament, but so also is His inestimable love for his Lord.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us Peter as an example. Let me understand how I can follow his example of loving You today…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.