Flashback Episode — The Amazing Miracle-Challenge: John 21:15-19

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In our last episode, we began focusing on the final official miracle the gospel writers include, and we discovered that in Jesus’ repeated miracle of fish multiplication, each of these disciples received a subtle second chance and a second invitation. However, Peter, in addition to this subtle invitation, gets an extra special chance to talk with Jesus, and the first portion of this conversation will be where we discover God’s greatest miracle that we can be a part of.

While salvation may be the greatest miracle in the history of the world, salvation isn’t something we step into. Jesus did everything necessary for salvation, and then He offers His salvation to us as a gift. The not-often-thought-of-as-a-miracle we will focus in on in this episode is a miracle we can step into.

Let’s start by jumping back into our event and reading Jesus’ conversation with Peter. Our passage is found in the gospel of John, chapter 21, and we will read it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 15, John tells us that:

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

In this conversation, we discover an amazing truth that comes with our gift of a second chance. Similar to how Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. There is an interesting wordplay involved in this passage with the Greek word that is used for love here, but we won’t focus on that in this episode.

Instead, we’ll look at the response Jesus gives to Peter after each time Peter tells Jesus that he loves Him. In each of Jesus’ three responses, we discover a unique angle on a similar topic. Feeding lambs, taking care of sheep, and feeding sheep are all similar activities, but they are also distinct.

The amazing miracle in this portion of Jesus’ conversation is that with His forgiveness, Jesus trusts us with His people. Let that sink in for a minute. God could have simply forgiven us, but left the care and guidance for His people with the unfallen angels. Alternatively, God could have forgiven us, but done so conditionally, and based on us responding to Him in a certain way.

Both of these alternate ideas is understandable, but this is not Peter’s experience. Instead, Jesus forgives Peter and then challenges him to help take care of his fellow believers, both the young believers, as well as his fellow disciples. While this might be a commission just for Peter, I doubt the early church viewed it that way. Instead, every believer, when they have received forgiveness is entrusted with feeding, taking care of, and helping other believers. God trusts us with His people.

God hasn’t left us without help for this challenge. He has promised us the Holy Spirit, and as His people grew in number, we would have each other looking out for others with us. When everyone is looking out for one another, then we are all seeking each other’s best interests, and we are reflecting God’s character to the world around us.

As I describe this, it seems a little disheartening that I look out at the broad church that carries Jesus’ name and I don’t see this happening. There are plenty of positive examples of Christians looking out for each other, but all too often, we hear or read more about a Christian looking out for themselves, putting another person down, or trying to exert power or influence over another person.

Jesus stepped down into this world to lift other people up, and when we are genuinely reflecting Jesus, we will be stepping down to lift others up as well. God could have left the work of evangelism and helping others to the angels, but instead, He gives us the opportunity to join with Him and be a blessing to those He brings into our lives.

It is also significant to note that Jesus predicted Peter’s big denial. Jesus knew, and He told Peter, how Peter would deny Him three times before the morning came, and this happened exactly as Jesus described, regardless of how much Peter denied the possibility of that even occurring.

In the last portion of this conversation that we read, Jesus gives Peter another prediction about Peter’s life moving forward. Before inviting Peter to follow, Jesus tells him in verse 18, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” While this doesn’t sound like much of a prediction, John tells us that Jesus’ words describe how Peter would finish his life glorifying God.

Jesus knows our future, and He knows what will bring us safely into eternity. While we might not have as clear of a prediction as Peter that we will reach an age we would consider “old”, the promise we have is that Jesus knows our future and He is passionate about seeing us saved for eternity. We don’t know when our life on earth will end, or even what the circumstances surrounding our end will be, but we know that Jesus knows, and that while He has work for us to do in this world, He will keep us safe to do His work in this world.

God has called us to partner with Him to love and take care of others, and He knows our future. Jesus came to give His life to redeem us and we can trust that He is preparing a place for us to live with Him when His timing is right. Our challenge and our goal is living with and living for Jesus with every breath we are given!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first in your life and trust that He will guide your steps into the life He wants you to live. Intentionally focus on lifting others up, on looking out for others, and on helping, loving, and serving where you are able to. Live a life that glorifies God by loving and helping sinners.

Also, always pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God. While learning from others is okay to do, never let your relationship with God be dependent on others. God wants a personal relationship with you, and a personal relationship is “personal”. Focus on growing closer to God each and every day.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 50: In Peter’s last recorded conversation with Jesus, discover some amazing things we can learn about who Jesus called His followers to be, and some ways we can apply Jesus’ challenge to Peter into our own lives over 2000 years later.

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