Hang Time with Jesus
Have you ever felt like a failure? In other words, have you ever set out with the best of intentions only to end up falling short and landing flat on your face? Of course, we all have. Failure is a part of life. Winston Churchill said, “Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” Easier said than done, but true. For example, where would the world be today if Thomas Edison had given up after performing hundreds, perhaps thousands of tests to create a light bulb? He would have never attempted the last test that successfully gave us artificial light. In fact, in response to an interview question about his failures, Thomas Edison replied, “I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” Now that’s keeping your enthusiasm!
About 40-days ago, we mourned over the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross, we felt the somberness of Holy Saturday, and we celebrated with great joy the Lord’s glorious victory over death on Easter Sunday. Hey! News flash! Jesus no longer lies dead in the tomb but has risen to live again and now sits at His Father’s right hand for eternity! I have no doubt it was a great time of celebration among the disciples as well. However, as we read in the pages of Scripture, there was one disciple who made an epic failure, one that you might say drained him of his enthusiasm. You see, this man denied that he even knew Jesus not once, not twice, but three times just as Jesus had told him he would do. Of course, the man I refer to is none other than Simon Peter.
Now to put our message into proper context, we need to turn back the pages of Scripture. Back to the evening before Jesus’ arrest. Jesus and the disciples are in the upper room and the Lord just washed the disciples’ feet, Judas left the building, and Jesus instituted what we refer to as “The Lord’s Supper” or “communion.” Now we are at the point where Jesus tells His disciples that they will all fall away or scatter from Him. Jesus said:
“You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” But Peter replied to Him, “Even if they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away!” Matthew 26:31
Here we see Peter bragging on himself at the expense of his fellow disciples. In other words, Peter is saying that even though these other men may fall away, I am better than them and will never fall away. You can depend on me Jesus, after all, you named me Rock for a reason. Yeah! Peter was a rock alright, a hard-headed rock. Jesus said to Peter:
“Truly I say to you that this very night before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” Peter *said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Matthew 26:34
As the evening rolls into the early morning hours, the authorities arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Bible tells us that Peter followed Jesus at a distance. By the way, Peter was not practicing proper social distancing here; he was fearful of being implicated with Jesus. You know, it is puzzling as to why it took so many people to arrest one person? I mean, Judas led what seemed like a small army of people to arrest one man.
Perhaps they anticipated resistance from the disciples, but the gospel writers point out that it was a crowd of people with swords and clubs that came to take Jesus away. However, Jesus proved that such a crowd was no match for the power of God, for when they said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus said, “I am He!” and Apostle John records that the crowd of people then drew back and fell to the ground. You might say Jesus was making it clear that no matter what, He was in control.
While Peter tried to stay as close as possible to Jesus, a girl said to him, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean,” but Peter denied her claim before everyone present. So then Peter meandered his way to another location only to have another girl say to the people around Peter, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth,” and again, Peter sternly denied her claims. A little later, some other people came to him and said, “Surely you too are one of them, for even the way you talk gives you away.” Frustrated and fearful, Peter begins to swear and curse, saying, “I do not know the man!” At that moment, a rooster crows, and the Bible tells us that Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Peter then recalls Jesus’ words, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” Apostle John said that Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Now it’s easy for us to look at Peter and shake our heads, waive our fingers, and say, “Shame on you Peter!” But let’s be honest. If anyone of us were with the disciples at that time and only had their level of understanding, we would have scattered too, just like bugs running from a can of Raid! Perhaps we would have been like Peter, denying that we even knew the Lord. Some people do that today– deny the Lord. Oh, they are all about Jesus on Sunday, but Monday through Saturday, they are all about the world, and they hide their Christianity; in effect, they deny Jesus.
In the 21st chapter of John’s gospel, we catch up with Peter and some of his fellow disciples by the Sea of Tiberius. The disciples had since seen the risen Lord back when He appeared to them in the locked room, but you can sense that Peter is still bearing the weight of his failure. Peter said to some of the disciples with him, “I’m going fishing!” and they replied, “We’ll go with you.”
It seems Peter decided to return to what he knew best, the trade he was good at doing. Perhaps you can identify with Peter in this case. Maybe there was a time when you told the Lord you would do something but failed miserably. In response, you decided to go back to doing what you were good at, yet all the while kicking yourself over your failure. I certainly have; been there, done that, and that is where we see Peter at this point.
So Peter and the others set sail for a night of fishing only to come up empty; they didn’t catch a single fish, not one! As they were making their way back to shore, they hear a voice asking, “Children, You do not have any fish, do you?” They answered, perhaps with a snarky tone, “No!” The person at the shoreline tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. Interestingly, they do just that, and instantly they catch a haul of fish so great they cannot pull it into the boat. Then John turned to Peter and said, “It is the Lord!” Now you have to wonder if John had a flashback here. The memory of a time when Jesus told Peter to let down his nets, and when he did, he caught a multitude of fish; so many that his nets began to tear.
When Peter heard John’s words, he jumped into the water and swam the short distance to the shore where Jesus was while the others came in the boat. Scripture does not tell us why Peter dove into the water and swam ashore. It could be any one of a hundred or more possibilities. However, I tend to think Peter was eager to apologize to Jesus, ask for forgiveness, and reconcile his relationship with the Lord. However, when Peter and the others joined with Jesus, they discovered that the Lord already had a fire stoked with fish and bread cooking.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have now caught.” If He already had fish on the grill, why did Jesus tell the disciples to bring their own? We can’t be sure exactly, but a favorite pastor of mine, Greg Laurie, once said it is because Jesus wants us to participate in His work using the resources we have, the resources that He gives to us. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus turned to Peter, who was perhaps much more reserved than before, and said, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Why did Jesus ask such a question? It’s more than likely because Peter, who, not so long ago, claimed to be more devoted to the Lord than the others– “Even if all of these men fall away, I will not fall away, I am ready to die with you,” Peter once said. However, this time, Peter answered, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you,” and Jesus replied, “Tend My lambs.”
Then Jesus asked Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Again, Peter replied, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you,” and Jesus said, “Shepherd My sheep.” For a third time, Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” The Bible says Peter was grieved because Jesus had asked for the third time. Peter replied, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” Now the common question is: Why did Jesus ask Peter this three times? The likely answer is, of course, because Peter denied knowing the Lord three times. However, there is more to this exchange between Jesus and Peter than mere repetition. Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him.
In the English language, the word love has many different applications, such as I love my dog, I love this movie, or I love my wife. However, in the original Greek language, there are independent words to describe different types of love. For example, there is the Greek word “agapao,” which is all-encompassing sacrificial love. It’s the type of love that carried Jesus to the cross at Calvary. Then there is the Greek word “phileo,” which is a brotherly form of love, and these are the two words Jesus used when speaking with Peter.
Therefore, when we take another look at the exchange between Jesus and Peter with that understanding, we come to realize there is a deeper meaning to the conversation. The first two times when Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He used the Greek word Agapao. In other words, Jesus was asking Peter do you have an all-sacrificial love for Me that you once boasted about? When Peter replied, he said, “Lord, I phileo you.” or “Lord, I love you as a brother.” Here we no longer see the impulsive boastful Peter. Instead, we see a more reserved Peter taking a step back and being honest with himself, realizing that he’s not the big shot he once thought he was.
However, when Jesus asked Peter for the third time, “Do you love Me?” He used the word Phileo— “Peter, do you love me like a brother?” In other words, Jesus asked Peter if he is even sure that he loved the Lord like a brother, and that grieved Peter, according to Scripture. Peter’s reply was, “Lord, You know all things, You know that I Phileo you” or “You know that I love You as a brother.” Jesus, content with Peter’s honesty and open heart, said to him, “Tend My sheep.” In this way, Jesus was telling Peter, “I forgive you, I still have a plan for your life, I still desire to work in and through you to care for My people and to build My church.” Some Bible translations refer to this conversation between Jesus and Peter as the “love motivation” because it shows the love God had for Peter and the love He has for you and me!
Like Peter, Jesus desires us to be honest with ourselves because He already knows everything about us, so when we fail to be honest with ourselves, we fall into our own self-deception. In other words, people can lie to themselves so much that they start to believe their lies as the truth. When we do that, we make ourselves easily susceptible to temptation and increase our risk of falling deeper into sin.
Perhaps you are at a point where you feel as though you have failed the Lord. Maybe you have backslid in your walk with God, or you have refused to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead to share the gospel, or confess sin and seek forgiveness. Whatever plagues your heart, whatever weighs you down to think God no longer desires to restore and use you in His kingdom work. Don’t listen to Satan’s whispers that only deceive. Instead, take hold of the power and authority of God’s word, which says in 1 John, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I’m here to tell you that God is still in the restoration business.
Jesus wants a personal relationship with you, and the foundation of any close, meaningful relationship relies on honesty and trust through faith. The Bible says, “By grace you are saved through faith…” Jesus will always be honest with you, so be honest with yourself and be honest with God. Jesus said:
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.“ John 8:31-32
A Faithful Sower first published this article on May 17, 2021.
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