He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."
-- John 21:17
"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."
-- Andy Dufresne
If you saw "The Shawshank Redemption," you cannot forget it. It is the story of a hopeless man in a hopeless situation, who finds hope in, of all places, a Bible given to him by the prison warden, with an inscription inside the cover, "Salvation lies within."
Simon Peter found himself in a hopeless situation in need of some redemption. After the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter still felt a nagging guilt over what he had done at Jesus' trial. Instead of standing up for Jesus, he denied he even new the Lord, three times. As the rooster crowed, Peter found himself entering a prison of his own making, chained by guilt and fear. Simon Peter needed redemption, and he got it, from the word of God.
Jesus spoke to Simon Peter with hope for the past
If I had been Jesus, I might have started the conversation by confronting Simon with his failures. Dude, what's up with the denials that you even knew me? How could you do such a thing? I made you an Apostle?
We mere mortals like to pummel our fellow man with his sin. We don't like to talk about our own transgressions, but we revel in repeating the failings of others. It gives us a leg up, makes us feel superior, and reveals our inner Pharisee.
God is not like us. He has no sins of His own, and is tender, gracious, and merciful with ours. This truth is made most evident in Jesus' conversation with Peter by the things the Lord did not say. He did not mention the denials, directly. He knew Peter's faith and repentance was genuine because He knew one day Peter would die for the sake of the gospel.
God knows your sin and God knows your faith. The first is canceled out by the second; therefore, if you have true faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus will never beat you over the head with your sin. He will give you grace. He will give you mercy. You will never be cast out, held back, or unloved because of some sin you have committed or mistake you have made. Jesus is in the redemption business.
Jesus spoke to Simon Peter with hope for the future
"Do you love Me?" Jesus asked Simon, three times. The point in this part of the conversation is that Jesus met Peter where Peter was at, and gave the Apostle hope that his relationship with God was still intact.
This hopeful exchange lifted Simon Peter back up into the saddle, then Jesus gave him a good giddy-up. "Feed My sheep," Jesus said. In spite of his great mistake, the Lord still considered Simon a Christian, an Apostle, a preacher and pastoral minister of the gospel, and charged him with taking care of God's flock, the church.
Hope and opportunity await every backslidden Christian who will get back into the saddle, back into the word of God, back into the church of Jesus Christ, and do his or her dead level best to obey the gospel and build up the body of Christ.
Jesus spoke to Simon Peter with hope for the present
Simon Peter had denied the Lord, three times, after which he wept in bitter tears. He felt terrible. He felt worthless. He felt hopeless. Jesus' use of repetition was aimed at redemption. The Lord gave the disciple a chance for redemption commiserate with the number of times Simon had failed.
God is not as concerned with your past as other people. His grace and mercy can put a sinful or painful past behind you. God knows your future, mapped out by His sovereignty and paved by His providence. God cares most about your present, how you are living and what you are doing now, and He desires to lead you as Lord.
Follow the Lord Jesus Christ in the present. Be a disciple. Build up His church. Share the hope found in following Christ with others. Because hope is a good thing, and no good thing, and certainly no child of God, will ever die.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]