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.’ John 21:15
Jesus’ appearance on the beach in John 21 occurred after His resurrection and therefore after His crucifixion and all the events surrounding it—including Peter’s cowardly denial of even knowing Christ. We can safely assume that Peter felt shame at his failure of loyalty and faith. We can just imagine him confiding to the other disciples, I had my chance, and I blew it. I betrayed Him. Here I am, the one who thought he would play the hero, standing as a testimony of the worst cowardice. So, as Jesus spoke to him, surely Peter wondered, What will He say? What part do I have in His people now?
Jesus didn’t write off Peter’s failure; He acknowledged it. After their meal together, Jesus addressed Peter by his old name, Simon, which means “listen.” At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus had changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means “rock” (John 1:42). This change symbolized a shift that would occur in Simon Peter’s character and calling: he was shaky, but he would become firm like a rock. There on the shore, however, Jesus wanted to remind Peter of his shakiness. Before Peter could become steady, he needed to understand that his behavior had displayed neither a firm faith nor any measurable boldness rooted in Christ’s love.
Like Peter, you and I will sometimes feel sidelined by our failures, our backsliding, our unbelief. We will feel the ache of a dislocated faith; we will need the Master Surgeon to reach out and put our love back in place, sometimes painfully but always restoratively. Notice that it is indeed Peter’s heart, his love and devotion, that Jesus is most concerned about. Other qualities are desirable and necessary, yes, but it is our love for Christ that is indispensable. Where is our love? Is it built on shaky sand or on a firm rock?
Yet even as Christ puts our love back in alignment, He entrusts us with kingdom work. Jesus still chose to use Peter to build His church. How surprising that Jesus entrusted His “lambs” to the disciple who (with the exception of Judas) had most let him down and in whom was the greatest gap between profession and action. But how encouraging for us that Jesus would do so: for if He was willing to use someone like Peter, He will be willing to use someone like me and you. Jesus still chose to give Peter great responsibility, but that responsibility was meant to test Peter as well. The test of love for Jesus is whether a life displays obedience and action. The book of Acts shows how Peter, with the enabling of God’s Spirit, responded to the test.
The story of Peter, the shaky rock, stands as a reminder to us that God is a God of grace and second chances. Our weaknesses reveal our need for a strength that is not our own, a measure of might that is found only in our great Rock of Ages. Therefore, knowing that such strength is available to us from the Savior who died for us and commissions us in His service, you can walk into your day and do His bidding out of love for Him.
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company. Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.