John 21. As I reflected on this passage, I wondered why John concludes his Gospel with this episode. None of the other Gospel writers include it. This particular story is unique to John. So why include it? In verse 14, John reminds us that this is the third time that Jesus has made Himself known to the disciples. Two prior occasions, He had a purpose in mind…calming the fears and commissioning a group of the disciples, breathing on them the Holy Spirit and giving them life; and then a special encore presentation for Thomas. This episode also has a very focused purpose…the restoration of Peter. You see, after his denial, we as the readers are left wondering, “So whatever happened to Peter?”
Peter had blatantly denied and turned his back on Jesus. There was no getting around it. After all of the boasting, after all of the posturing, in the end he had failed miserably. And all of his closest friends knew it. Fear might have been involved, although given Peter’s boldness in confronting the soldiers that seems less likely. Frustration? Probably. Doubts? Sure. But Peter was supposed to be their fearless leader. Not so. Would he ever be useful again?
And now, miraculously Peter is given a second chance. Jesus shows up and takes him aside, and with the reminder of both his failure (charcoal fire…same as denial) and his calling in mind (Simon, son of John…mirrors his calling in chapter 1), he’s given another opportunity to follow Jesus. But following Him this go round would not end well from an earthly standpoint. It would involve a cross. Three years later…knowing all that he had been through and would yet go through, would he still sign up? Knowing that the journey would be a lonely one, with no guarantees that anyone else would accompany him, would he still follow Jesus?
The encouraging thing for me from Peter’s story is that Jesus makes a special trip to offer him his second chance. And not only a second chance, but also a bright new future chock full of opportunity to continue to pursue Jesus…and to fail, but also to change the world. He and this rag-tag group of Jesus-followers will take the Roman world by storm…not leading a military campaign, but waging spiritual warfare nonetheless. We are here today because of his ministry. Eusebius tells us that Jesus’ prophecy concerning Peter was fulfilled when he is fastened to his own cross upside down by Nero in Rome at the same time as Paul. According to Clement of Rome (c. a.d. 96), Peter suffered martyrdom under Nero (a.d. 54–68; 1 Clem. 5.4), probably during the final years of Nero’s reign (c. a.d. 64–66). Even knowing that following Jesus was a death sentence, Peter still signed up. And it was the adventure of a life-time.
But what about you? What’s your story of denial? How have you blown it? Have you come out the other side? What does life look like? Do you believe that Jesus can still use you, that He wants to use you? He made a special trip for Peter after a very public ministry failure…He wants to do the same for you. But how will you respond when He says, “Follow Me!”
It strikes me that Peter’s story would likely have had a very different ending had I been the one whom he had denied. And for some of us, we are in the position of being the betrayed. What about you? Have you restored the one who failed you? Have you forgiven them? Any second chances? Would you trust them with an even greater level of responsibility? Or would you do what I can be so quick to do, and write them off?
Peter’s story challenges us at so many levels: Do we believe that Jesus still can and wants to use us, no matter our failures? Are we willing to follow Him, no matter the cost? Are we willing to forgive and restore others when they fail us?
My prayer for you is that you grasp how long and high and wide and deep is the love of Jesus for you…that you may rest in His grace…that you may learn to love and forgive like Him and that you would do that exceedingly well this week.
Until next time…stay salty.
You can hear this sermon at: http://www.centralchristian.org/media