This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series.
A discouraged Peter goes out to fish and he was able to persuade six other disciples to go with him. That night they caught nothing. Soon, Jesus standing on the shore tells them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. Then they caught a large number of fish. Soon John told Peter, “It is the Lord.”
As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him and jumped into the water. See, this man had denied Jesus. Yet love for Jesus was still in his heart. That is why that unhesitant response of jumping into the water.
Jesus, who had attended many dinners during his earthly ministry, now played the host and invited the disciples saying: “Come and have breakfast (John 21:12).” What a lovely picture is this. These disciples were coming to the shore from the sea, cold and wet. What they needed was some warmth and some food. Jesus provides for them. Remember he is now the Risen Lord.
Now follows that crucial conversation Jesus had with Peter. The setting was dramatic. The catch of fish reminded him of the first time Jesus had helped him have a miraculous catch of fish (see Luke 5). Then Jesus had told him: “”Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men (Luke 5:10b).” But Peter, in his discouragement, had forgotten that calling and had gone out to fish.
A note on discouragement:
Before we move further let me say a word about the power of discouragement. Other than doubt, discouragement has made many a man or woman of God move away from what God has called them to do in life. There is nothing to be ashamed about discouragement.
We find Elijah one day running many miles in the power of the LORD faster than a chariot (1 Kings 18:46) and again running in his own strength from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:3). He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die (v. 4)! Remember that this was just after he brought down fire and then rain from heaven in answer to prayer!
We find a discouraged David encouraging himself. It is recorded “David found strength in the LORD his God (1 Samuel 30:6b). Remember all his men were talking about stoning David at this time!
Peter, because he had denied the Lord, was a discouraged man. Neither the special message to him from the angel (see “And Peter” in Mark 16:7), nor Jesus’ special appearance to Peter of which the Bible says nothing more (Luke 24:34, 1 Corinthians 15:5), nor his appearing to the disciples together twice (John 20:19, 26) was able to drive discouragement out of Peter.
Similarly, why are you discouraged today? What is the failure in your life that is now making you walk away from God’s call on your life? The Risen Lord is not finished with you yet. He is standing at the next turn inviting you to have a chat with him.
Again, as you look at the encounter of Jesus with Peter, there was a fire of burning coals on the shore. And Jesus was asking him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these (John 21:15)?’ Three times he had denied knowing his Lord while he was standing before a fire warming himself (John 18:18).
Peter was hurt when Jesus asked him the third time. His reply was: “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you (John 21:17).” Jesus gives him the task of feeding his lambs and taking care of his sheep. Jesus also gives him a clue as to the kind of death he would die to glorify God (tradition says that Peter was crucified upside down).
Jesus is not surprised when we fail. He knew that Peter was going to deny him. But Jesus had prayed for him (Luke 22:31, 32). By any chance if you have failed God in some way, Jesus is even now giving you a chance to make things right with him. His only question is “Do you love me?” What is your answer?
A note on love for Jesus:
God is not expecting from you a great performance. He is simply asking you, in the midst of all your sinful failures, just one question: “Do you love me?” Let that question ring in your ears all the time. Think about a little child with soiled hands offering his mother a glass of water to drink. The mother can scold the child or the mother accepts the glass of water looking to the love with which the child brought that glass of water to her. God looks at your heart (1 Samuel 16:7, 1 Chronicles 28:9). Jesus did not ask Peter anything about why he failed nor did he make fun of his boast earlier. The only question was, and is to us today, “Do you love me?”
Finally, Peter was a bit curious about John: “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered Peter, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me (John 21:22).” See, Jesus is not asking you to follow anyone else or find out what is God’s plan for someone else. He is asking you to follow him.
“Follow me” was the initial call made to Philip in this gospel (John 1:43). The gospel ends with a reminder of that call, “You must follow me.” We need to keep this call of Jesus in mind always.
One lovely thought: Judging by the language used in verse 20, it can be understood that Jesus had taken Peter to be alone with him when he asked him the question “Do you love me?” repeatedly. He knows how much shame you bear. See, it was a well- known fact that Peter had denied Jesus. But Jesus was not making it a matter of public discussion. Do you now feel the gentleness and understanding with which Jesus deals with you when you fail him?
Insights on Peter’s Failure:
“Almost as sad as Judas was Peter, the deserter in the hour of need, denying three times that he had any connection with his best Friend! This is a lesson for us—overconfidence. Poor Peter is to be pitied, for he really loved the Master.
Peter did not know that the supreme trial of his life would come in the question of a servant maid. It is so often thus. We lock and bolt the main door, but the thief breaks into a tiny window we had not thought of. We would die at the stake, but deny Christ in our speech.
All the disciples but John deserted Jesus in the hour of his greatest need. (Peter denied Jesus, but he stayed close by). – Dr. Henrietta C. Mears
The Hero and the Coward
(John 18:15-18; John 18:25-27)
(i) The first thing to remember about Peter is not his failure, but the courage which kept him near to Jesus when everyone else had run away. His failure could have happened only to a man of superlative courage. True, he failed; but he failed in a situation which none of the other disciples even dared to face. He failed, not because he was a coward, but because he was brave.
(ii) We must remember how much Peter loved Jesus. The others had abandoned Jesus; Peter alone stood by him. He loved Jesus so much that he could not leave him. True, he failed; but he failed in circumstances which only a faithful lover of Jesus would ever have encountered.
(iii) We must remember how Peter had the courage and the tenacity of purpose to redeem himself, to start from failure and attain to greatness.
The essence of the matter was that it was the real Peter who protested his loyalty in the upper room; it was the real Peter who drew his lonely sword in the moonlight of the garden; it was the real Peter who followed Jesus, because he could not allow his Lord to go alone; it was not the real Peter who cracked beneath the tension and denied his Lord. And that is just what Jesus could see. A tremendous thing about Jesus is that beneath all our failures he sees the real man. – William Barclay
The story of Peter is one of repentance. Just as Peter was denying the Lord, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him. “And he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 23:46).”
The story of Peter is also one of great intercession. Jesus had earlier told Peter that Satan had asked to sift you as wheat. “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail (Luke 22:32).”
The story of Peter is again one of great restoration. Think about it. Peter was the natural leader of the Twelve. Yet he had denied his Master. He bore that shame. Yet Jesus restored him. And on the Day of Pentecost he was the one who spoke to the crowds enabled by the Holy Spirit.
If at all you have failed God, trust in the One who has already prayed for you. He will restore you. Even if you have walked away from God for many years now, he will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). Return to Jesus and he will return to you (see Malachi 3:7). Let the story of Peter inspire a great comeback to God in your life. Amen.