Today’s Bible Reading:
Today’s Bible Verse(s):
John 21:17 (CSB): “He asked him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my sheep,’ Jesus said.”
Reflections on Today’s Bible Verse(s):
I hope that it would come as no surprise to others that I love God’s Word. I love studying it! Why? Among a multitude of reasons, it provides an endless thrill of discovery. No matter how many times I read the Bible, there is always more to see, more connections that I hadn’t noticed before. No matter how deep I go, I can go deeper still. God is a genius storyteller who has provided us with a Book that we will never exhaust.
“Details! Details!” you may cry out. “I agree with what you’ve just said but show me something specific that validates your point!”
Well, without making this too long, I’ll just point out a few things that took place when Peter and Jesus met after His resurrection. The disciples were in a boat and hadn’t caught any fish. Jesus, unrecognized to them, raised His voice and told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. They did and they caught a boatload of fish. Peter instantly recognized Jesus.
As Peter swam the length of a football field to the shore, He met Jesus and something else. Jesus had started a fire on which He was cooking some fish. But it wasn’t a wood fire.
John 21:9 (CSB): “When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.”
A charcoal fire. Jesus could have easily started a fire with brush but he used charcoal. That may seem insignificant to the casual reader but Peter would have noticed. Charcoal fires put off a distinct smell. Smells are powerful because they can transport us back to another time when we smelled the same aroma.
So, was there another time when Peter smelled a charcoal fire?
John 18:17–18 (CSB): “Then the servant girl who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, ‘You aren’t one of this man’s disciples too, are you?’ ‘I am not.’ he said. Now the servants and the officials had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold. They were standing there warming themselves, and Peter was standing with them, warming himself.”
The last time Peter smelled a charcoal fire was when he betrayed Jesus. It appears that Peter had been trying to catch fish all night and now Jesus was trying to catch Peter. Jesus created a smell that would have tied this event to Peter’s betrayal.
So, what conversation ensued around that charcoal fire on the shores of the Sea of Galilee?
John 21:15 (CSB): “When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ …”
I can imagine that those words cut to Peter’s heart like a knife and created a VERY awkward moment around that fire. How could he say, in front of the disciples who knew of his denials, that he loved Jesus? Peter would never forget that moment when Jesus looked at him after his third denial.
Luke 22:61–62 (CSB): “Then the Lord turned and looked at Peter. So Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
So, now Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him. Peter dearly loved His Master and despised his previous cowardliness. He hated himself and felt like an abysmal failure. He wished that Jesus would just say their relationship was over. That would be easier to deal with than this situation around the fire.
But, Jesus wasn’t like that. He was much more gracious than Peter or anyone else could imagine. And, in this moment, Jesus was pulling Peter back in.
Peter’s response to Jesus question?
John 21:15 (CSB): “… ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said to him, ‘you know that I love you.’ ‘Feed my lambs,’ he told him.”
Peter wouldn’t blame Jesus for saying that he was lying but Peter genuinely loved his Lord. And, to Peter’s surprise, Jesus accepted his affirmation and essentially said, “That’s wonderful Peter. Now, let’s get past this and get back to work. There’s so much to do.”
When we read John 21:15-17, we realize that Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Why do you suspect that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times around a charcoal fire? Because each time Peter said, “I love You, Lord,” he was essentially claiming his allegiance to Jesus where he had previously denied his allegiance. Jesus was creating an occasion where Peter could relive that night and proclaim His love for His Lord and not deny Him.
Well, how did this conversation with Peter end?
With a profound affirmation from Jesus’ mouth. Essentially, Jesus said: “Peter, you denied me and ran away as I was sent off to be crucified. You feel horrible about yourself and wish You could relive those moments so that you could stand up courageously for me. Well, Peter, you’re going to get that chance. You’re going to die a martyr’s death and you will die because you refused to deny me. Don’t let your denials define you. It’s over, Peter.”
John 21:18 (CSB): “Truly I tell you, when you were younger, you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go.”
Friend, Jesus is much more gracious than we realize. When we are beating ourselves up because of how we have failed Him, He is reaching out to us to pull us back in. Following Him doesn’t mean that life will be easy. You may suffer for Him. You may even die for Him. But, He desires for you to live in obedience and victory. If you mess up, He just might graciously give you another chance to stand courageously for Him the next time.