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 21:17. NIV).
One morning following
the Resurrection, Jesus appears to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee.
The night before Peter had decided to go fishing, and a few of the
others had followed him. They had been at it all night with no luck.
Jesus now calls to them to throw the net over the other side of the
boat, and the net is immediately full. Dragging their fish ashore, they
suddenly recognize that it is their Master who has instructed them. As
Jesus stands beside a coal fire in the cool morning air, they realize He
has prepared them a breakfast of fish and bread.
Try to picture
what happens after breakfast. Jesus and Peter are sitting around the
fire to keep warm The others must have left, because this is a time for
Peter and Jesus alone. Jesus looks into his eyes, and asks Peter if He
loves him. He asks him three times, and Peter says he loves Jesus three
times. Jesus tells him three times to feed his sheep–to reach others in
His name. Jesus knows that Peter's mind is consumed with his denial and
failure, and that Peter can't think of feeding the sheep. But that is
the mission, and Peter needs to let go of his feelings of unworthiness
Jesus lovingly takes Peter back to the point of his
three-time denial, and tells him it doesn’t matter now. It is no mistake
that Peter and Jesus are by a coal fire at this moment. Peter is surely
remembering the coal fire where he denied Jesus. But Jesus is saying
the it doesn't matter and to stop dwelling on it. “Move on and feed the
sheep, Peter,” He says. “If you love me, don’t allow feelings of
unworthiness and or failures to stop you.” Jesus longs to take each one
of us to the point of our denial—of our failure, and longs for us to
know we are healed because of His sacrifice and Resurrection. “Move on
in me,” He says to you and to me.
God was able to mold Peter
into a strong leader who would be able to feed His sheep. In his time of
faithlessness and failure, Peter experienced his fallen state, only to
later experience the power of forgiveness that brings God's power. Your
failures do not define who you are in Christ. He defines who you are.
You can only realize your potential when you understand He is stronger
than your own limitations. You can only experience His mercy and grace
when your failure has broken your heart and prepared it to receive His
forgiveness. You can only understand God's power in your life when you
have learned your own weakness, and submitted all of it to God. Like
Peter we are called to share the love of Jesus Christ with His sheep.
The depths of the love of God can only be shared by those who have been
saved from the depths of their own failure. Ask Him to take all of your
failures and your feelings of unworthiness. There by your own coal
fire, you will discover the mercy and grace that sets you free.