“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.” 16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21.15-17
It’s a great reinstatement. Three verses, three questions, three responses, three commissions after three denials.
This interchange between Jesus and Peter is perhaps one of the most popular in Christian circles. Millions of sermons have been preached upon it and millions of interpretations given between the Son of God and the Rock of the Church.
So what can we glean from this passage? What does God want us to know? I think a plain reading of this passage reminds us of these three things — we all sin against God, God forgives, God can use us in spite of our sin.
For those people, and there are many, who feel like something they have done in their past can keep them from being used by God, I would point them to this passage. Have you sinned more than Peter? Is our denial of him greater than Peter’s who not only did it face to face but at Jesus’ greatest time of need?
Many feel unworthy to be used by God for his purposes and this is completely fine. However, what we can’t ignore is his continual call to reinstate us just as he did Peter. If God wants to use a broken vessel than who am I to argue? He knows what he’s getting when he calls us. He knows everything about us and still will use those whom he uses.
Peter must have thought all was lost after his denial. Jesus is crucified and then rises from the dead. He appears several times to the disciples but it is not until the third time (no coincidence there) that Jesus confronts his number one disciple and publicly returns him to the head of the movement.
One: “Do you love me?” Yes Lord, I love you. Feed my lambs.” Two: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, I love you.” “Take care of my sheep.” Three: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep.”
Though we have all sinned and fallen short of his glory, God will use us too. He will reinstate us, from our weakened state, and use us to reach His world for salvation.
“O Lord, I have sinned against you more times than I can count. I have failed to be obedient! Forgive me. Help my unbelief. Call me to repentance, renewal my heart for you. For in the silence, you speak to me. In the darkness, you bring the light. Come now, Beautiful Savior, restore this weakened vessel so I might serve in your Kingdom. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen