Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am... ”. (John…
He never saw it coming. It appeared without fanfare and it was the last thing he ever expected to hear from the one he had committed to support wholeheartedly and had disappointed so deeply. It was agonizing to hear but it ended up being the question that changed his life.
Simon Peter was ashamed of himself because he couldn’t live out the commitment he had spoken with complete sincerity, “I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:37) He meant the words but he didn’t grasp the scope of his statement or the personal power it would take to actually live it out. When it came time to prove his resolve, he failed miserably. Three times during the arrest of Jesus, Peter was given an opportunity to identify himself as one of the Savior’s followers. Three times he denied he even knew his master. (John 18:17; 25-26)
We have all been there. We have made commitments only to discover we lacked the personal resources to follow through. We have made sincere statements of devotion but have fallen short on the execution of the plan. We have made wholehearted pronouncements of our intentions and then agonized over our failure to live them out. It is hard to describe the humiliation that arises in the human heart at times like these. We are embarrassed by our own inadequacies and wonder if we would want to be friends with ourselves. We are stunned by our weakness and speculate whether we have what it takes to succeed in life. We are deeply humbled and hesitate when we are presented with new opportunities for fear we will have a repeat performance. At the same time, we long to get back in the game and do something significant with our years on earth.
This is the experience of Peter in John 21. He is thrilled that Jesus invited him to breakfast and cautiously optimistic that Jesus will still accept him. “When they had finished eating,” Jesus unexpectedly asked, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’” (v. 15) There was no introduction or explanation of why Jesus presented this question to Peter. Things were very casual right up to the moment when Jesus pierced Peter’s heart with His verbal probe.
Peter quickly answered, “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” (v. 15)
Jesus simply said, “Feed my lambs.”
Peter probably would have been comfortable if Jesus left it at that but again Jesus asked, “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.” (v. 16)
Not letting the issue drop, Jesus asked him a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (v. 17)
At this point Peter is realizing this is not a casual question. The Savior is prying into his heart to set Peter free from his self-conscious hesitation. He is counteracting the effects of the darkest moment of Peter’s life and leading him to the point of restoration that will equip him to contribute to the growth of other people. He is transforming Peter’s biggest mistake into a platform of grace. Peter can feel he is being probed because he “was hurt.” Peter was hoping to ignore the shame while Jesus was bringing it to the surface so it could be dealt with and healed.
In desperation, Peter pleaded with Jesus, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus simply replied, “Feed my sheep.” (v. 17) Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three times Jesus commissioned him to shepherd God’s own people. And it all started with a question.
Sometime soon we will each be presented with a question in the midst of a casual setting that begins the process of change in our lives. I am not sure what your question will be but I do know that Jesus wants to transform the painful experiences of your life into a platform of grace that will help other people.