April 28 – John 21:15-19


Main Focus: Peter’s encounter with Jesus exemplifies Jesus’s work of restoration in us, a work that calls us to right relationship with him and to proclaim his goodness to the world.

This is the second-to-last week of our Jesus & People series, and here we have another of Jesus’s post-resurrection interactions with the disciples. We’ll focus on Jesus’s conversation with Peter in particular, flipping back to Peter’s denial of Jesus to get the full picture, and in discussion we’ll see how Jesus does this same sort of deep work in us to address our sin and restore us to himself.

We’ll start discussion by reading Luke’s account of Peter’s denial (cf. Matt 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; John 18:15-27). It happened exactly as Jesus said it would (Luke 22:34)—for all his bravado, with the threat of dying alongside Jesus, over and over Peter refused to admit, even to a little girl, that he ever even knew him. As Luke records, once Peter realized what he’d done, he fled the courtyard weeping bitterly. He had abandoned his Messiah, rabbi, and friend, and he knew it.

After this we’ll read John 21:1-19, where the apostle records the third interaction between the resurrected Jesus and his disciples. Keep that in mind as you read this. This is not the first conversation Peter had with his risen Lord following his denial, and you can imagine how much this had been hanging over his head. In John 21 we find seven disciples fishing (again) without any luck. Early in the morning, after what must have been a discouraging night on the waters, they hear a stranger call to them from the beach, telling them to drop their nets one more time from the right side of their boat. They do as he says and shockingly catch so many fish they can’t even lift the net into the boat. This all parallels an interaction they had with Jesus back when they first started following him (which we looked at the first week of Jesus & People).

Remembering this and being fast on the uptake, John declares that it’s Jesus on the shore and Peter jumps out of the boat to meet him. Peter’s recklessness perhaps clues us into his mental state—the boat was not far off from land (v.8) and yet he flung himself fully clothed into the water to get to Jesus. He seems to know he needs something. And, of course, Jesus has something to give him. Inviting Peter to join him for breakfast, Jesus probed him, asking him three times if Peter loves him. Even Peter recognized it was strange for the all-knowing Lord over all creation to ask him a question he already knew the answer to (v.17). What was Jesus doing here?

As we discuss how Peter was feeling and what Jesus might have been up to, it’s pretty easy to conclude that Jesus was just guilt-tripping Peter by making him walk back through his mistakes. But note where Jesus is heading in this conversation; he finishes with the same words he used to call his disciples, likely the first words he ever spoke to Peter, “Follow me” (cf. Matt 4:19). Jesus wasn’t shaming Peter, he was restoring him, repairing the breach in their relationship that Peter caused by running from his Savior. While doing so, he also recommissioned Peter, calling him back to the ministry he’d been given to care for Jesus’s people, the dear sheep of the Great Shepherd. Though Peter had disqualified himself from this task, Jesus was requalifying him.

In discussion we’ll connect this to how Jesus deals with us in our sin. Jesus does a similar work in us when we run from our Savior, working to restore us and repair the breach we cause in our relationship with him. It’s crucial for us to discuss sin and how we think Jesus deals with us in our sin; too often we assume Jesus turns a blind eye to our faithlessness, or is so disappointed or disgusted with us that we can never hope for a right relationship with him. Neither are the case—Jesus deals with our sin in a way that is sometimes painful but always necessary, with the goal not of shaming us but of restoring us by coming face to face with our sins and turning back to him.

In discussion we’ll also try to bring into the light any areas of our life where we have yet to truly feel Jesus’s forgiveness and restoration, areas where we need Jesus to help his forgiveness sink down deep. We’ll conclude by noting Jesus’s objective in this work, how it is meant to change us. Though we might not be called like the Apostle Peter, we nevertheless find in Jesus’s work of restoration a call to a changed life, one in which we no longer flee our Savior but cling to him, one in which we no longer deny him but rejoice to tell others of his goodness. The last question in discussion, “how is this meant to change you?”, could easily stray into moralizing waters (i.e. do this, don’t do that) so be on your guard. Again, the point of Jesus addressing our sin is not guilt-tripping, or mere behavior correction, but to live in restored relationship with him. This is the changed life that Jesus calls us to.

Discussion questions

– Can someone read Luke 22:54-62?

– Now, could someone read John 21:1-19 for us?

– How do you think Peter was feeling in this conversation with Jesus?

– What sort of work do you think Jesus was doing in Peter here?

– How can this story help you understand how Jesus deals with you and your sin?

– Are there any areas of your life where Jesus is doing this sort of work right now?

– When Jesus does this work in you, how do you think it’s meant to change you?