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.” 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.” 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” (John 21:15–17, esv).
Call it a chasm or a wall—when something goes relationally wrong between two people, an obstacle separates them. Take Peter and Jesus. After Peter denied even knowing Jesus (John 18:15–27), it was hard for him to imagine any way back into right relationship with the Lord. And the fact that Jesus didn’t bother to confront him in the days following the resurrection might have made Peter feel even worse.
Then, during an impromptu fishing trip Peter had organized with some other disciples, Jesus showed up unannounced and served a shoreline breakfast. He didn’t say anything directly to Peter until the meal was over and then asked, “Do you love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” In the tone of his response, we hear the caution he had learned from failure. Weeks before, the impulsive disciple would have blurted out, full of self-confidence and swagger, “Absolutely, Lord. You can count on me” (see Matthew 26:33). Post-failure, he hoped Jesus would find his faith to be true.
Rather than agreeing or disagreeing, Jesus issued Peter a job: “Feed my lambs” (21:15). Imagine the thoughts running through Peter’s mind: Wait, what, Jesus? I flat-out denied You three times. How can You trust me with anything? Undoubtedly, Peter was struggling with the obstacle of unworthiness.
But this entire exchange between Jesus and Peter underscores Jesus’ intention: to restore Peter. It’s as if Jesus puts His hand on His disciple’s shoulder and says, “True, Peter, you did blow it. But I’m not done with you yet.” Jesus chose not to review the past. The past was over. Reconciliation doesn’t deny the past; it moves forward in the present. Though Peter had failed and fallen, he was still going to be used.
That’s grace. Jesus invited Peter to get up, stop wallowing in his failure, come home, take his place beside Jesus, and be used in the Master’s plan.
In our lives, when Jesus shows up, He restores us and gives us new purpose. That’s a good word for you today, a hopeful message of undeserved favor. God’s not done with you yet! It’s never too late for you, even if you have wandered. He can cross the chasm and tear down the wall.
Is there an obstacle between you and the Lord right now? Has a Peter-like failure undermined your hopes of a healthy relationship with God? If you’re ready for reconciliation, then come home to the waiting Savior. He is ready to welcome you and commission you into service again. Like Peter, you can move past failure; you can be fully restored.
Lord, thank You for restoring Peter. Thank You that failure was not the end of his story—or of mine. Please forgive me for failing You, for wandering away. I long to be faithful. When I’m not, please restore me and use me to advance Your kingdom. Thank You that Jesus is truly the Good Shepherd—tough and firm yet patient and loving. Like Peter, I affirm that I love You, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.