Isn’t it interesting that the very first disciple to confess that Jesus was the Messiah, the Promised One, is the same man who denied knowing him on the night of his death? There it was, the crucial moment in Jesus’ ministry, and his most outspoken disciple – who had just cut off a Roman centurian’s ear in his defense, mind you – won’t speak up. Wait, I take that back. He spoke up…just not in the way you’d expect. Peter denied knowing Jesus. Three times.
Still, Jesus knew what He had planned for Peter. He knew that He would build His church before this rock, before Peter. Much like when Moses and the Israelites gathered before Mount Sinai and entered into the Old Covenant, three thousand people would gather in front of Peter on the day of Pentecost. As Peter proclaimed the gospel, those who believed were ushered into the New Covenant. The Church, the body of Christ, was being built up in front of Peter. Just take a look through the book of Acts and you’ll see that it goes on and on: Peter proclaiming the gospel, hundreds believing, the church being built, grown, expanded.
So I kind of have to ask myself – really? He said he didn’t even know Jesus. Not to mention how hot-headed and impulsive Peter seems to be throughout the Gospels. I mean, out of all of the other disciples, you know – the ones who didn’t deny knowing Jesus three times – He picked this one to be His herald? This one to tell His story? This one to be responsible for the construction of His Church, His Bride?
But that’s exactly what Jesus did. He gave Peter an incredibly clear mandate. “Feed my sheep,” He said. And not just once. He said it three times. Interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus gave Peter three chances to tell Him he loved Him? Three times, Peter had denied knowing Christ, and three times Jesus let Peter affirm his love and commitment to Him.
This grace is amazing. The forgiveness is unfathomable. The Messiah that Peter had pledged to follow, even to death, was going to His death, and Peter was warming himself by a fire and pretending he didn’t have the foggiest idea who Jesus was. I’ve warmed myself by that same fire, uttered the same denials. I’d hazard a guess that maybe you have, too? But because Jesus’ story didn’t end on the cross, neither did Peter’s. Neither will yours. Neither will mine. So let us respond with Peter – let us confidently answer not only that we love Him, but that we will serve Him, that we will feed His sheep.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”