John 21:15-25 – Today we conclude our time in the book of John. We have by no means mined all the treasure that is to be found in this narrative of the life of Yeshua, but we have gotten some wonderful nuggets. I hope this journey has inspired you to dig for your own hidden treasure in the pages of scripture as you do your daily Bible reading.
Before we go, I want to conclude our time in John with another priceless interaction in John 21. Just a few days ago we had the heartbreaking story of Peter’s denial of Yeshua. Today, we see Yeshua’s redemption of Peter’s human frailty.
Three times Peter is asked if he is a disciple of Yeshua or if he is one of the ones that was with Him when He was arrested. Three times Peter says, “I am not.” The scriptures don’t state the reason(s) why Peter denied being with Yeshua but we can speculate based on human nature. Most likely he feared a similar fate as Yeshua. Perhaps he thought that if he acknowledged that he was one of the 12 closest to the man now under interrogation by the high court, that his life would also be in danger. The disciple who proclaimed, “I will lay down my life for you,” (John 13:37) and boldly declared, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away…Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you,” (Matthew 26:33-35) had grossly underestimated his real world response when facing such a situation.
I’m sure you have all been in conversation with people who have quoted, or even been the one to zealously recite the words of Yeshua in Matthew 10:32-33: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” This verse of Yeshua denying us if we deny Him is misrepresented and used to shame people who may not be so bold as to acknowledge they are a believer when faced with the possibility of jail or death. We have grand ideas that we will be able to stand strong in the face of religious persecution, but we never know what we will do if that fateful situation ever occurs.
How do we see Yeshua respond to Peter’s denials? Does Peter’s denial condemn him in the eyes of Yeshua? First, after telling Peter that he would deny Him and hearing Peter’s claim that he would NEVER do that, Yeshua doesn’t argue. He doesn’t say, “Just wait and see,” or “Haven’t I already proven the fact that I’m always right and I’m not wrong about this either?” Yeshua is silent. He has no need to argue His case.
As we saw in the Luke narrative, Yeshua merely looks to Peter when he denies him for the first time – an acknowledgement that He knew it had happened as He said. (Luke 22:61) Peter must have felt that he was an utter failure. In the time after his denial of Yeshua, the witness of His painful death , and His burial and resurrection, Peter must surely have felt guilt and shame because of his inability to back up his bold claims with action. He had so strongly declared he would never waiver and he had been so quick to shrink into the shadows. Even if no one else knew what had happened, Peter and Yeshua did.
There is no talk of Peter’s denial until John 21:15-19. Paul writes about the good news that the book of John shows us in real time: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua.” (Romans 8:1) Not one word of condemnation is spoken by Yeshua to Peter. He doesn’t throw Peter’s epic failure back in his face. Three times He asks him a variation of, “Do you love me?” His response is a whole other topic. I want us to focus on His questions to Peter. It is hard to miss that three times He asks Peter if he loves Him. Three times Peter affirms that he does. Three times Peter denied that he knew Yeshua and Yeshua gave him three times to affirm his love for Him. The shame, guilt, and condemnation that Peter must have felt for failing Yeshua was redeemed in this moment. For each denial, Yeshua gave him a chance to boldly proclaim his love.
And then Yeshua says, “Follow me” to the man that was a hot-head – quick to act without thinking of the consequences, the man that hung back in the shadows, the man that denied Him, the man that now knew what it was to be faced with the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of the Messiah, condemned to scorn, beatings, and a horrific death. Peter’s epic failure didn’t disqualify him from following Yeshua.
We will fail G-d. We will come up lacking or fall short of the standards that we see written for us in scripture. The beauty in the life of a believer is knowing that He already knows how and when we will trip and fall. There is no condemnation from G-d for our failures and mistakes. If we have repented of all the ways we fall short, then any shame or guilt we feel is from Hasatan, not G-d. He will give us opportunities to redeem the broken parts of our life, just like He did for Peter, and as he did for Peter, he still asks us to Follow Him.