Today’s reading is from John 21. Why did Jesus ask Peter if he loved Him, three times? If you’re anything like me, you love success stories. I love success stories. I think they are motivating, I think they are inspiring. But I’m going to be honest with you, every once in a while, give me a good old-fashion failure story. I need to know that I’m not alone, I need to know that I’m not the only one who wrestles with doubt, that I’m not the only one who wrestles with sins that try to entangle my life. I need to know that, and that’s what I love about Peter. Peter is this guy who, when you’re feeling bad about yourself, it is encouraging to me that here’s this guy, a disciple, used powerfully by God, but who made so many mistakes along the way.
Jesus had prophesied that Peter would betray Him, but of course Peter said boldly, “Lord I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” As it turned out Peter denied Jesus three times! He let Jesus down when Jesus needed him the most. I wonder if part of the reason Peter decided to go fishing was partly because he was thinking that his career as one of the apostles of Jesus was over. “There is no way God could ever use me again. I give up I am going back to fishing.” There is nothing wrong with fishing, but there is everything wrong with ‘giving up!’
Let me ask you a question, “Have you ever failed God? Have you ever sinned against the One who has brought you salvation and forgiveness?” We ALL have been there, haven’t we? Scripture tells us that ALL have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory and perfection. We failed God before we became true Christians and we failed God even after we became true Christians. What many people fail to understand is that when we become Christians, it does NOT mean that we will never sin again… we will sin and fail God many times! In fact on a daily basis we will disappoint God, and the enemy is going to use that sin in our lives… he is going to use that failure in our walk with Christ against us!
There is a natural inclination when we fail God, to think, “Let’s just go back to what we were doing. God can’t use me.” I think this is one of the reasons many people stop coming to church on Sunday. They mess up during the week and feel like they can’t come to church. Yet, that is the exact reason why you need to be coming to church! If you are perfect and never do anything wrong, then you don’t need to be here, the rest of us do!
But here in John 21:15: Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved Him. Why three times? I think it was to help counter Peter’s three denials. I don’t think it is any coincidence that Jesus asked Peter this question three times. Jesus was helping Peter get out of his cage of guilt. I don’t know what mistakes you’ve made. I don’t know what sinful memories are etched into your memory. I have no ideas what failures form that cage of guilt in your life, but I do know this, God hasn’t given up on you. He can’t, it is not in His nature. This is what grace really is. It is saying, “You are far more valuable to me than that thing you did wrong.” It will change a person’s life. It changed Peter’s life. One of God’s core values is to love people when they least expect it and least deserve it. You gotta love that!!!