When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
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.”
Peter had denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times. We need to remember that in God’s sovereign view, failure is a necessary part of discipleship.
And this is what Jesus offers to Peter, asking him “Do you love me?” The implication is: You failed me three times, but I am still choosing you –to love me, to be my disciple. But this time, by taking care of my sheep.
Jesus’ language is such that there is only a hint of Peter’s failure of denying him(the threefold question). The rest of the conversation is a re-instatement of Peter’s discipleship. As if he’s saying: That’s past. Shall we move on now? This was more than a second chance. This was by design.
The church would be built on someone who knew his failure all too well. And how appropriate. Only someone who’s failed can identify with, care for, and help those who are struggling, lost, and have failed as well. And such is the church -such is God’s design.
But let us remember Peter was also lifted up by Jesus. Jesus would not allow him to remain devastated and defeated by his failures. He was forgiven completely, given a glorious hope, and unbounded strength to move on, in a way as to depend on Jesus all the more. And so he would indeed “feed the lambs”, encouraging them to let their failures drive them to God’s enormous grace.
The apostle Paul called himself the “chief of sinners” but also one who was “called by Christ”. I often forget the place from which God called me. And when I do, I forget not only the grace given to me, but the grace I am called to offer others.
Lord remind me again that as often as I have failed and denied you, you have poured out enormous grace to me. And so you call me to embrace others not with shallow sentiment, but with a depth of identification and at the same time with relentless hope, joy, and encouragement.