John 21:15 “So when Jesus had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter. ‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Tend My lambs’.”
Spiritual surgery can be extremely painful, but necessary. The wise Surgeon, the Lord Jesus, never hurts us unnecessarily; His purpose is always for our good, and He is wise and skillful to do exactly what must be done for our spiritual health.
One may reasonably assume that Peter felt a deep inner awkwardness around Jesus after the resurrection. Yes, his heart rejoiced at this glorious and miraculous victory that the resurrection represents, but…the relationship with Jesus was strained. After all, had not Peter professed His undying love and loyalty to Jesus only to deny he even knew Jesus in the hour of temptation? Peter had even had the audacity to elevate himself above the other disciples, in front of them! So, when Peter failed, his heart failed also. His pride was destroyed; his self-confidence was obliterated. Peter needed spiritual surgery from the wise Surgeon Himself.
But the angst and struggle with his relationship with Jesus were all on Peter’s part, not Jesus’. At no point in any New Testament post-resurrection narrative, especially when Jesus appears to Peter (note that Paul makes special mention in 1 Corinthians 15:5 to Cephas – Peter), does the biblical text state or hint that Jesus had lost any love for Peter, or that Jesus lost any desire to use Peter in His kingdom work (this is proven by Jesus’ fresh call in John 21 to Peter for future kingdom service). Jesus never stopped loving Peter or accepting him as His own.
When we fail as followers of Christ, our evaluative reason becomes tainted with our failure; we feel that something has changed in Jesus’ heart toward us because of our failure. We might feel that He no longer loves us, trusts us, or desires to use us in His work. But this is only our negative projection on Jesus. He is not what we think He is; He is always WHAT HE IS! He knows our weaknesses, our failings, and our sins. He knows our propensity for struggle and confusion. And He knows how weak we are and how quickly we will collapse and capitulate under the pressure of the heat of trial and temptation. And yet…HE STILL LOVES US! He loves us with everlasting love, and nothing in heaven or on earth can ever change that (think about Romans 8:35-39)!
The remarkable (and surprising) gift that Jesus gave to Peter in John 21 was the assurance that PETER REALLY DID LOVE JESUS. Jesus knew this; Peter did not. Peter’s failure was not a denial of his love for Jesus; it was representative of his imperfection in this life. Peter’s failure demonstrated how much he needed Jesus and His help.
Jesus knows us better than we think He does. He chose us as His disciples, despite what we are in our imperfections and sins. He died for our sin, and His love transcends our failings. Do we know this truth deep in our souls? We are weak, but He is strong; yes, Jesus loves me? May the Lord plant this reality deeply into our hearts until the question is settled, and may we live in the delightful knowledge of His love for us. And may we live and serve in the wonderful acknowledgment of this great truth.
Prayer: Lord, I fail so often, and when I fail, I feel the brokenness of my own heart. Help me to remember that my failings do not change Your love for me. And help me, when I fail, to rise on the wings of repentance and forgiveness (forgiveness that comes from Your grace and the merits of Christ on the cross) to soar in the heights of a fresh awareness of Your great love for me and my deep love for you. Help me to live for You and serve You with the joy that comes from Your love.