“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, 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.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
Isn’t it interesting how each of our lives resembles the basic elements of a story or a book? Those basic elements include the following: (1) Plot; (2) Setting; (3) Characters; and (4) Theme.
The Lord is the author of each of our lives. He created us, saved us, and is preparing an eternal home for us to be with Him. In the midst of our birth, life and death, He creates and crafts various plots, comprising our life. Instead of our lives being our story, in reality it is God’s story and how He places each of us in His unfolding drama of redemption.
The plot or story of each life contains characters of family, friends, enemies or opponents, teachers, employers, mentors and detractors. Each person the Lord brings into our lives shapes and molds us to grow and mature. Lessons, sometimes painful, are learned in order for each of us to be holy as the Lord is holy (I Peter 1:16) and to be content in all things (Philippians 4:11).
The settings of our lives includes the homes we live(d) in, the schools we attended as children, the colleges we attended as we pursued an education, and the places of employment where we worked and earned a living. Do you remember your childhood home? What about your elementary school? What college did you attend? What was your first job? When were you married? Have you ever been married? How many children, or grandchildren, nieces and nephews do you have?
The theme of our life can be summed up in many different ways. For me, my life’s theme is found in Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
What do these introductory thoughts have to do with today’s text in general, and the Apostle Peter in particular? Simply this: Peter was about to embark upon a new chapter in his life. He was about to leave much of what he had known, e.g. fishing, in order to be a fisher of men and to feed the Lord’s lambs and sheep as an apostle of the living God. He would cease to be a man of business and instead become a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He would no longer be a man who depended upon himself but rather become a man dependent upon the Lord. He would become the first leader of the New Testament church.
Following their breakfast with Jesus, the Lord asked Peter three times whether he loved Him more than fish. I believe it is significant that Jesus called Peter “Simon” each time. It alluded to the probability that at this moment in the apostle’s life, he truly considered returning to his life of fishing which was what he had known prior to meeting Jesus. Jesus could restore Peter to ministry, following his denial of Christ, but only if Peter’s profession of love for Jesus was true or real.
One commentator says, “Three times Jesus posed the question to Peter, most likely to parallel the Apostle’s three earlier denials (see 18:15–27). Just as Peter rejected Jesus three times, he would have to confess Jesus three times to be restored to his place among the disciples. Some preachers have made much of the fact that Jesus uses two different Greek words for “love” in interrogating Peter, but it does not seem that we should find significance in this fact. The words are used interchangeably throughout John’s gospel. What we should take note of is that Jesus tells Peter in three different ways to feed and take care of His sheep. Jesus gave Peter the duty of shepherding His people, of teaching them the truth that feeds their souls.”
The new chapter in Peter’s life would involve preaching the gospel, leading the church, healing the sick, being imprisoned, and testifying to the truth of the gospel while publicly affirming His love for Jesus when facing persecution. Peter, at times, would still make mistakes (Galatians 2) but would increasingly become an instrument for God’s noble purposes. He would eventually author two New Testament Epistles which bear his name.
Where do you fit in the story of God’s redemption? Are you nearing the final chapter? Or are you in the midst of His story for you with exciting events occurring each day? Or, is God’s story in your life just beginning with God’s salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone?
Wherever you may be in the Lord’s unfolding drama of redemption, take great joy that God is writing each chapter of your life for His glory.
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!