Jesus showed Himself to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-19). And He said to Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs” (John 21:15). Peter had once declared, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33). But now Peter was humbled after his denial of Jesus. There is no confidence in himself that his love is greater than that of his brethren. And Jesus bade him, “Feed My lambs.”
Again, Jesus asked Peter, repeating His previous words: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep” (v. 16). And once more Jesus asked: “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep” (v. 17).
Three times Peter had openly denied his Lord, and three times Jesus drew from him the assurance of his love and loyalty, pressing home that straight question. Thus, before the gathered disciples Jesus showed the depth of Peter’s repentance and conversion.
Peter was naturally impulsive, and Satan had taken advantage of his weakness. Just before the fall of Peter, Jesus told him, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31, 32). Jesus showed the disciples that Peter was now more prepared to be a shepherd to the flock.
Jesus’ questions were needed because Peter had shamed Christ, and had caused the other disciple’s to distrust. They thought he would not be allowed to take his previous place as a disciple among them, and he himself felt that he had lost their respect. Therefore, before being called to resume again his apostolic work, Peter must before them all give proof to repentance. In this manner, Jesus gave him a chance to regain the trust of his brethren.
This incident is recorded to give a lesson for all the followers of Christ. The gospel makes no negotiation with sin. It cannot justify evil. Secret sins are to be admitted in secret to God; but, for open sin, open acknowledgement must take place. The shame of the disciple’s sin is cast upon Christ and it causes Satan to succeed. By giving evidence to repentance, the believer, as much as he can should try to remove this shame.
In His service,
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