“He said to him a 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
Last Sunday, Jeff continued our journey through the book of Acts as he preached from chapter 9. Much of chapter 9 is devoted to telling us of Saul’s conversion and his immediate experiences afterward. In verse 32, we are taken back to see what the Apostle Peter is up to, and it’s kind of incredible.
The remainder of the chapter lets us know that Peter is not just sitting idly by in Jerusalem, but is active in the ministry of the early church. In Lydda, Peter heals a paralytic man named Aeneas in a manner reminiscent of the healings of Elijah, Elisha, and even Jesus. Soon after, in Joppa, Peter raises a woman named Tabitha from the dead. These are incredible miracles that God is able to use to draw attention to Himself. Through these miracles, God draws attention to Peter, who is then able to point the people directly to Christ.
During his sermon, Jeff mentioned something that really grabbed my heart and has not let go. Peter, this apostle who is a prominent leader (if not the leader) of the early church, has come a long way since his early days as a disciple of Jesus. When reading the gospels, I always imagine Peter as a gruff sort of man who just says what’s on his mind. He never strikes me as the kind of guy who thinks before he speaks.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” -Matthew 16:13-16
Peter just comes right out with it. “You are the Christ.” There is no hesitation for Peter. He recognizes who Jesus is, but does he really get it? In the same chapter of Matthew, Jesus starts talking to his disciples about how he will taken by the elders and chief priests to be killed, then raised back to life three days later. But that’s not the kind of thing that Peter wants to hear from the man he just claimed was the Son of the living God.
“And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.'” -Matthew 16:22-23
One minute, Peter is the rock upon which Jesus will build his church. The next, he’s showing just how little he understands Jesus’ purpose for dwelling among men. Thankfully, as we have already seen, this is not the end of Peter’s story.
Later in Matthew, we continue to see that Peter has no problem opening his mouth again. Jesus lets the disciples know that they will all fall away when he is arrested. But Peter cannot believe for a second that he would ever fall away, no matter what the other disciples do. “Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times'” (Matthew 26:34). Peter still could not believe this, despite hearing the words directly from the Savior’s mouth.
But that’s exactly what happened. Jesus was right (of course). Peter denied that he even knew who Jesus was, going so far as to curse at the people trying to place him as one of Jesus’ closest followers. Thankfully, again, this is not the end of Peter’s story.
The gospel of John provides restoration for Peter in chapter 21. After Christ’s resurrection, we find him enjoying breakfast on the beach with some of the disciples. Once they have eaten, Jesus has a conversation with Peter, repeatedly asking him if he (Peter) loves him (Jesus). Three times, Peter tells the Lord that, of course, he loves him. This passage, found in John 21:15-19, never fails to bring me to tears.
Peter’s story is our story. It’s my story.
How often have I denied knowing Jesus? Not necessarily with the words that come out of my mouth, but through my actions toward others. How many times have I claimed to love God, but refuse to love the people around me? Thankfully, that is not the end of my story. Thankfully, Jesus is there to restore me to ministry, just as he did with Peter.
I may not journey to another town and heal a paralytic or raise a woman from the dead, but I have received God’s grace and have the ability to share the name of Jesus with the world. That, in itself, is miraculous.