Summary: Jesus charges Peter as they chat around the campfire
One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Peter. I guess it’s because I can relate to him so much. He tries to do the right things and say the right words but often stumbles along the way. He was just a simple fisherman that was handed the most important assignment any man could have.
His name was not always Peter. He started out as Simon. His name meant “listener.” He often had a problem living up to the meaning of his name. Jesus would change his name to Peter, meaning “the rock” after Simon revealed that Jesus was the Messiah. He would fail to live up to that name also.
Today I want us to look at the last encounter Peter would have with Jesus in which he would receive his final instructions.
We will find this story in the Book of John Chapter 21.
Seven of the disciples were together waiting on the resurrected Jesus to appear to them again. It had been awhile and they were not sure what to do. So Peter decided it was time to get back to fishing. Remember this had previously been their job. The others decided to join him.
They fished all night and as the sun was rising they noticed a man standing on the shore. He cried out “How’s the fishing going?”
“Not to good”, they answered.
“Try the right side of the boat.” Immediately their nets were filled with fish. John was the first to recognize Jesus. Peter was the first to reach him because he jumped from the boat and swam ashore. The others brought the boat ashore bringing in the nets filled with 153 large fish. Thus began Peter’s reliving of the high and low points with Jesus. And some lessons taught to us.
Peter would recall his first encounter with Jesus, how Jesus filled his nets with fish after he allowed Jesus to use his boat to preach to the masses on the shore.
Like the day of the resurrection John would the first to arrive to the tomb and recognize that the body of Jesus was no longer there. But Peter would be the first to enter into the tomb and witness the details of the resurrection.
Let’s look at John 21:9-10. “When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. ‘Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,’ Jesus said.”
Jesus reminded Peter to be a servant. Jesus, the King of Heaven, could have waited for them to reach the shore and commanded a fire to be built and food to be prepared. But Jesus, the resurrected Lord, was still being a humble servant. He already had a warming fire going. He had fish already prepared. He did not require them to add to the menu but He did invite them to add to it if they chose to do so.
Next is John 21: 13 “Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish.”
Jesus reminded Peter to expect the miraculous. Peter would have remembered how Jesus took 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread to feed the 5,000 plus people. Although at this moment food was abundant He wanted Peter to realize that provision would also be made in the lean times.
Now Peter is about to have his feet firmly planted on the ground concerning his relationship with Jesus.
John 21:15 “After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love (agape) me more than these?’
What was the meaning of the question? Was He asking Peter if he loved Jesus more than the fish? I know that may sound silly but the fish represented Peter’s livelihood. He fish was Peter’s stability. The fish represented what the world had to offer. Perhaps He wanted Peter to decide if he was willing to cast aside all the world had to offer in order to give Jesus his unconditional, all giving, unselfish love.
Or perhaps He was asking Peter if he had a greater love for him than the other disciples. Peter had once claimed “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you.” (Matthew 26:33) Maybe Jesus wanted Peter to look deep within and decide if he still had a proud estimation of his love and devotion.
‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘you know I love (philio) you.’
Peter realized that his love for Jesus was not unconditional. He realized how easy it was to return to fishing. He remembered how quickly he abandoned Jesus along with all the others. He confessed he had a deep friendship love with Jesus but not total surrender.
‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him.”
Notice the gentleness of our Savoir. He doesn’t condemn him or tell of his disappointment in him abandoning him. He charges him to care for those who can not care for themselves.