Those who are called to shepherd the church are broken people. We are simply jars of clay that carry the treasure of the good news (2 Corinthians 4). We are reminded of that in this story.
This passage is post-resurrection, but there are still issues that must be dealt with. This is especially true for Peter. Peter remembers his bragging tone in the Upper Room at the Last Supper: “Jesus, I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Peter also remembers his denial of Jesus three times right after the Lord’s arrest (John 18).
Jesus is risen, and Peter is full of shame and remorse. The disciples were given a mandate, to continue the work of Jesus in the world: “Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:21-22). The disciples were given a mandate: to be a missionary people, but Peter has issues that must be dealt with.
Impatient and broken, Peter has gone back to fishing. He knows how to fish. This he can do right. So he fishes along with some other of the disciples. But this night, even the fishing isn’t good. In the morning, a voice comes from the shore telling them to fish from the other side of the boat. The catch is enormous!
All of a sudden, the disciples realize that the one on the shore is Jesus. Impulsive Peter jumps into the water, leaving the others to deal with the fish and the boat. Peter is broken and ashamed, but he has to get to the Lord. We see Peter’s love for the Lord.
On the shore, Jesus is the host once again. Around a campfire, Jesus serves fish and bread. The disciples are surprised and awed by this appearance, but for Peter, there are issues that must be dealt with.
Jesus and Peter go for a walk. Jesus asks a question: Do you love me? Do you love me more than these other disciples love me? Do you love me more than this life of fishing? Peter do you love me? Peter responds, yes I do. Jesus gives a command: Feed my sheep. Peter, be a part of the mission.
Jesus must take Peter into the depths of his despair and shame in order to bring healing and wholeness. Jesus will not make light of Peter’s brashness nor his denial. There will be no simple pat on the back saying that’s okay Peter.
Jesus lovingly but deeply probes into Peter’s heart. Jesus asks the question: Do you love me. Peter responds Yes, I do. Jesus asks a second time and Peter answers. Jesus asks a third time and Peter feels the weight of his denial. Yes Lord, you know that I do. Peter is standing vulnerable before his Lord. He is no longer brash or impulsive or arrogant. Now it is Peter the broken disciple before his master Jesus.
Jesus asks three questions. Peter responds three times. Jesus issues three commands: Feed my sheep. Jesus the good shepherd (John 10) now extends his mission to Peter. Peter is loved and restored. Peter, along with the other disciples is given a task. There is work to do.
The disciples have come full circle. In Luke 5, the disciples including Peter are called to follow Jesus and take up a new fishing task. In that event, Peter recognized his sinfulness in front of Jesus. Peter recognizes that brokenness again now.
This is the way of ministry. We are broken people who love the Lord. The Lord deals with our brokenness along the way and gives us the task of ministry. Ministry requires humility and dependence. Whether when fishing or in ministry, we listen for the voice of the Lord and we heed that fresh voice no matter where it takes us.
Peter is told that the road before him will involve martyrdom. In an age of mega church pastors and revivalist, it is good to remember that saints and martyrs are examples of the way of Jesus (Matthew 5:10ff.)
The Chief Shepherd called Peter to shepherd out of our brokenness. The same call is extended to us (1 Peter 5:1-11). Serve the Lord, humbly and eagerly. As we have been blessed, we bless others in the name of the Lord.