Sermon: Encounters with Christ…Peter’s Gracious Restoration (John 21)

Encounters with Christ

Christ’s Gracious Restoration of Peter

John 21:15-22

 

John 21:15-22 (ESV) 

    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, “Feed my lambs.”  [16] He said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.”  [17] 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.  [18] Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  [19] (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

    [20] Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  [21] When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  [22] Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 

Have you ever been in a situation that you thought God was not paying attention?  Maybe you were in dire need and you began to pray and it seemed as if God were not listening.  Maybe you remained in that situation for a long time…maybe you’re still there. 

In the vastness of this great universe, you feel like God has forgotten you and your need.  Sometimes we can feel very insignificant. 

Our Lord is omniscient.  This means that He is aware of every minute detail that will ever come about.  He sees the future clearly and never forgets.

We have in this passage a clear and pointed doctrine on Christ’s deity.  Peter claims Jesus to be omniscient, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

I want to take a step back from our passage and look at the big picture of Peter and his attitude.  Once we see his ways clearly then I want to move in and see what our Lord is up to.

1. The Tearing Down of Peter’s Pride, His Three-fold Denial

Peter’s Problem-

John 13:5-9 (ESV) 

    Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.  [6] He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”  [7] Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”  [8] Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

[9] Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 

Peter was among the others and he sounds as if he is the most sinful of all the disciples.  His humility has a hint of pride.  He is showing the others how much he loves Jesus, almost to the point that his devotion to Christ far exceeds theirs.

Luke 22:31-34 (ESV) 

    “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat,  [32] but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  [33] Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”  [34] Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

Here, Jesus is predicting that Satan is going to sift Peter and that, because of Christ’s prayer, Peter’s faith will stay in tact.  We know that his faith is extremely shaken. 

Peter makes a very prideful statement; again he is sitting around the table with the rest of the disciples. He says, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.”  Jesus knew what would happen.  He knew that Peter’s pride had to be broken.

Jesus didn’t pray that Peter would be kept from Satan’s sifting but that through it he would be changed.  Through his suffering Peter’s self-confidence would be stripped away and his proud spirit would be humbled.

Satan is used as a tool by our Lord to accomplish God’s purpose in refining Peter.  In Satan’s mind he would be rendering Peter useless for the Kingdom of God, but in the omniscient mind of Christ, Satan would make Peter into a true disciple. 

This is a valuable lesson for us.  Because our Lord knows everything, He also knows what it takes to perfect us.  He knows what to apply to our soul to cause us to be changed into His image.  We can trust that whatever the Lord sends our way will ultimately be for our good and for His glory.

Peter’s Denial-

Peter’s third denial,

 Luke 22:60-62 (ESV) 

    But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  [61] And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.”  [62] And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter’s pride was crushed.  His self reliance was torn away.  He was only left with the memory of his failed boasts.

2. The Building-Up of Peter’s Soul, His Three-Fold Confession (John 21:15-17)

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, “Feed my lambs.”  [16] He said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.”  [17] 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Here we have Christ giving Peter the opportunity before all His disciples to confess his self-reliance and show his changed spirit.  Peter has been humbled by Satan’s work.  He is not rendered useless as Satan hoped but made powerful as Jesus knew. 

First Round-

Jesus gently asks Peter, do you love me more than these?

There are at least three possible meanings here.

-Do you love Me more than your fishing nets, boats etc?  Do you love Me more than your former way of life?  After all at the first sign of trouble Peter went fishing.

-Do you love me more than you love these other disciples?

-Do you love Me more than these other disciples love Me?

I believe Jesus had this last one in mind.  This was the essence of Peter’s sin of pride.  Previously he was convinced that his love for Christ exceeded anyone else’s. “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 

Peter’s response-

He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

Jesus’ Commission- He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

We should not the difference in the two words here used for Love.

Jesus said do you love me with a supreme commitment?

Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.  Peter’s reply shows his humility.  He knew that his self-reliance is prone to fail.  He also knows that his boasting of his love for Christ was what led to his fall.  He answers, Lord You know that I love you affectionately.

Peter wasn’t going where he once went.  His humble reply was exactly what Jesus was after.  Jesus now restores this fallen apostle to his rightful place.  Peter’s mission was to take care of the young church that Jesus established.

Feed my lambs- Literally, care for My young converts by feeding them the Word of God.

Second Round-

 [16] He said to him 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, “Tend my sheep.”    

Again Jesus reaffirms His fallen apostle.  Again He asks Do you love Me supremely? Again Peter responds, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you, affectionately.

Jesus says, He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”  Be a shepherd to my fold.  Discipline the sheep.

Third Round-

[17] 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

This time Peter made the connection.  Christ was giving Peter the opportunity to retract his former boasts and his past denial.  We can compare Peter’s grieving over his sin with his weeping bitterly after he denied Christ the third time.

Jesus now changes His question to use the same word Peter was using.  He asks, do you have any affection for Me?  Jesus was putting the final touches on Satan’s work of humbling Peter.

Isn’t the grace of Christ amazing? 

Peter had been brought to the place where he didn’t trust his own heart but relied on Jesus’ omniscience. Lord, you know everything.

We should also see that one difference is that Christ is not saying now, do you love Me more than these but simply do YOU love Me. 

In the first question Jesus challenged the superiority of Peter’s love.

In the second question Jesus challenged Peter to see if he had any love at all for Christ.

In the third question Jesus challenged Peter to see if he even had any affection for Christ.  

We are given the priviledge to see the transforming effects of divine grace. Peter would not boast that his love was superior.  He wouldn’t even say that he had affection, but relied on Christ’s omniscience.  Lord even though I failed You when You needed me most, even though I denied that I even knew who You were, Lord even though when someone watched they could see no love in my heart when I denied You, You know what is in my heart. 

In grace Christ blots out Peter’s sin and restores him to a more effective apostle than ever before.

2 Cor. 12:9 (ESV) 

    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

Now Christ could use Peter to further His kingdom. 

3. The Proof of Christ’s Omniscience (John 21:18-19)

Lord, you know everything.

 [18] Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”  [19] (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Our Lord is warning Peter that his love would be tested again.  Jesus warns Peter that the shepherding of the flock of God would cost him his life.  Jesus was reassuring Peter that he would not deny his Lord even if it cost him his life.  Tradition tells us that it did.

John gives us the meaning of Christ’s Words, This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.

I’m sure that encouraged Peter but also caused him a little nervousness. 

Rather than keeping his gaze on Christ, Peter turns and looks at John.

4. Peter’s Fallen Nature (21:20-22)

    [20] Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?”  [21] When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”  [22] Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 

Peter boasts that he will follow Jesus to the death…When the going gets tough, Peter denied he even heard of Jesus…Jesus restores Peter…Jesus shares with Peter that actually his love for Christ will be tested even to his death…Peter says, What about John?

Our fallen nature is so quick to surface when we take our eyes off of Christ.

[20] Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them,

We must keep our eyes fixed on Christ.  If we find ourselves drifting away from our Lord we must fix our gaze back onto Christ.  We must see Him in the Scriptures and in prayer.

Even though Peter was restored, the old Peter was still around. 

What does that tell us?  Even though we’ve been converted and have the Holy Spirit leading us into truth, we also have our old nature leading us into sin.  It leads us to think about things we shouldn’t think about. 

It wasn’t any of Peter’s business what Jesus was going to do with John.  Jesus says, don’t worry about John, worry about yourself.  What I want from you Peter is your obedience.  You follow me!

Christ would say the same thing to us when we take our eyes off of Him and concern ourselves with the affairs of others. 

Follow Me, is Christ’s words to us today.

Here is the idea, Peter as you follow Me, care for My sheep.  As you follow Me care for My Church.

Years later, the young church went under extreme persecution.  Those who were suffering were discouraged and concerned.  Peter exhorted those young believers to stand strong that their faith would not fail.  Peter is called the Apostle of Hope.  Peter’s primary message in his letters is to trust the Lord, live obediently no matter the circumstances, and keep you hope fixed on God.  Suffering is expected but it yields great blessings to those who remain steadfast.

1 Peter 1:13-15 (ESV) 

    Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  [14] As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,  [15] but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 

The Lord commissioned Peter to care for His young church.  Who better to write about looking to Christ and standing steadfast under persecution than the Apostle Peter?

Peter’s Encounter with Christ reestablished his commitment, assured him of Christ’s forgiveness, and reinstated his apostleship.  Even though Peter still wasn’t perfect, he lived the rest of his life tending Christ’s sheep.

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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