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April 20 -- John 21:15-25

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’” –John 21:15 (NIV)

Yesterday, we saw how Jesus warmly welcomed His disciples to breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In the miracle of the fish, He reminded them of their call experience. This was done especially for Peter’s benefit.

Peter had denied Jesus. Three times while Jesus was being tried, Peter denied ever having known Him. Afterwards, Peter “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62). Even though he was overjoyed that Jesus was alive, his disappointment in himself must have weighed heavily on him. Perhaps that is why he went back to fishing. Maybe he thought that since he had messed things up so badly as a disciple that all he was good for was fishing—going back to his old job. But Jesus saw things differently.

Some commentators believe that when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” (v. 15) that Jesus was referring to the fish. In other words, “Peter, do you love Me more than your old life?” (What “these” refers to is unclear, but the ultimate meaning is clear—Peter was to love Jesus more than anything else in his life.) Peter answered that he did love Jesus more. Then, Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to affirm his love two more times, and each time, Jesus told Peter that this love must be shown in how Peter cared for Jesus’ “sheep.”

At first, Peter was hurt by Jesus’ repetitions of the question, but when you think about it, Jesus’ repetition was meant to heal. Peter had denied Jesus three times. So, Jesus gave him the chance to affirm his love three times. Peter needed to accept the love and forgiveness Jesus offered in order to be able to extend that love and forgiveness to Jesus’ “sheep.”

After this exchange, Jesus hinted at the kind of death Peter would die if he left behind his fisherman’s life to spread the Gospel. Jesus closed this prophecy with, “Follow Me!” (v. 19). (Again, this was very much like the first time Jesus called Peter in Luke 5.)

Peter wondered about John’s life, and Jesus told him that John’s fate was really not Peter’s concern. Each believer has been called to a specific role in spreading the Gospel.

There are a couple of lessons for us here. Like Peter, we will mess up. We’ll fail. These failures do not disqualify us from having a relationship with Jesus or doing the work He calls us to do. He is always asking, “Do you love Me?” If we answer “yes,” then we have no choice but to keep following Him, loving those He puts in our path to love, doing the good works He planned in advance for us to do (see Ephesians 2:10), and allowing His Spirit to conform us to His image (Romans 8:29). Also, we should never compare our lot in life to another’s; we all have our unique part in God’s story, and He loves each and every one of us with an everlasting love.

Consider the way you have been uniquely called and equipped to share the love and forgiveness of Jesus with others. If you are a believer, then you can’t go back to the kind of life you lived before you knew Him. This doesn’t mean you have to change careers; instead, it means you have been changed in such a way that your deepest desire is to live for Him now instead of for yourself. And when you mess up (because you will), remember that He forgives. He wants you to keep following, even though it will be imperfectly.

Talk to God about the way He has shaped you and ask Him to continue to show you your role in His story. Thank Him for changing you—for saving you. And bask in His love and grace today.

***This is the last daily reading in our Lenten journey through the Gospel of John. Thank you for joining me! May you continue to find strength in God’s Word and to follow the Word made flesh—our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!***

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My name is Melissa Anderson. I'm a spiritual director and ordained pastor who loves God, people, and words. You can read more about me by clicking the button below.

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