Come and have some breakfast. John 21:12
A few years ago, my wife, Myrna, and I sat on the Sea of Galilee’s shore, not far from Capernaum. This was a little sea town where Jesus asked Peter to be one of His disciples at the very beginning of His ministry. As Myrna and I had our devotions, we could feel the presence of the Lord when the sun came up. We also knew we were not far from where Jesus had a special breakfast with Peter and the other disciples not long before He ascended to heaven. Perhaps, Myrna and I were right on the spot where they had breakfast together, who knows
The breakfast took place about 33 days after Jesus’ resurrection. It was a special breakfast because Jesus was going to tell Peter something he needed to know that would help him the rest of his life and in his ministry as well. Six other disciples were present during this discussion, so what He said helped them too.
After the resurrection, Peter only met personally with Jesus a few other times. During the days that followed this incredible miracle, Jesus spent most of His time with others who had been faithful to Him, possibly up to 500 of them, as I Corinthians 15 indicates. Who were included in the 500? I am not entirely sure, but they were likely those who had responded to His many teachings, miracles, and healings.
The disciples were to meet Jesus at the end of this time on a mountain in Galilee, probably Mt. Carmel. From there, they would take a four-day walk to Jerusalem, where He would ascend to heaven in their presence.
Before the disciples got to the mountain to make this last trek with Him, Peter and six other disciples took off to go fishing on the Sea of Galilee. This is where Peter had made his living before meeting Jesus. John and James, who also made their living as fishermen, were among the six on this fishing trip.
When Peter and the others cast out their nets during that early dawn, they heard Jesus’ voice onshore. He was beckoning them to come and join Him. They knew it was Jesus because they had heard His voice many times before. As they were making their way to shore where Jesus had built a fire, Peter could not wait and jumped into the water, clothes and all, to get there as soon as he could.
As they were all eating breakfast together, Jesus asked Peter some probing, yet very healing questions. As Jesus did this, you have to wonder what Peter was thinking about himself concerning his relationship with the Lord. On the one hand, he could bring up to himself some great memories and experiences. After all, he had given up his fishing profession to follow Jesus and even walked on water with Him; that is until he panicked and began to drown. He was also the first to identify Jesus as the Messiah when others stayed silent. And when the soldiers came to take Jesus away to trial, he took out his sword and began to fight. On the other hand, Peter also knew that he had denied Jesus three times during His time of need and had run and hid with the other disciples while Jesus was being tortured and crucified. Ugh!
Perhaps during this fishing trip, which turned out to be the last for him, Peter was thinking about all of these things, particularly his failures. Isn’t that true of most of us? We tend to dwell more on our failures than our victories. Maybe that is why Peter was out fishing again, saying to himself, “Well, back to fishing, at least I can do this, for I am not qualified to be the kind of disciple Jesus needs or wants,”
As they all gathered on the beach and began to cook and eat their fish and bread, Jesus asked Peter in front of all, “Do you love Me?” A few Greek words are used in the New Testament for love, one is agape, and the other is phileo. This latter love speaks only of friendship, the kind you could have with many who share your common interests. Agape, on the other hand, was a much deeper love, the kind that would cause you to do everything possible for another, even at the cost of your own life. This is the love Jesus had for the disciples and the rest of mankind when He gave up His life on the cross.
When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” He used agape love when asking this question. In response, Peter must have thought for a minute or two before answering, because he responded with phileo love. In other words, “Yes, Lord, I love you like a friend.” This might have surprised some of the disciples listening because Peter seemed to always be the one who answered confidently and boldly, sometimes for good, and sometimes not. Jesus did not rebuke him for his answer, but simply said, “Tend my lambs.”
Then a few minutes passed, and after eating a few more bites of fish and bread, Jesus asks him again, “Simon, son of John, “Do you love me?” Still, Jesus uses agape love in His question. Peter begins to struggle within, and answers back, “I love you like a friend.” Jesus once again does not rebuke him, but says, “Shepherd my sheep.”
Finally, for a third time, Jesus asks, “Do you love me like a friend, using phileo this time around. Peter really struggles now and begins to grieve, but in his struggle, he says, “You know I love you.” Jesus says one last time, “Then tend my sheep.”
Jesus knew Peter was troubled, so what was Jesus doing with him during this time, and what was His message to him? I believe Jesus was restoring Peter, because in each of Jesus’ answers, “Tend my lambs, shepherd my sheep, and tend my sheep,” none of Peter’s responsibilities were removed. Jesus was basically saying to Peter, “You are still the rock I declared you to be, and upon what you teach about Me and the kingdom, I will build my church. I told you I would make you a fisher of men at the beginning, and a fisher of men you will continue to be. Regarding your past failures, and even your inability today to love me as I love you, you are forgiven. In time you will love Me and others as I have loved you. Count on it!”
As breakfast ended, the other disciples knew that Jesus was not just talking to Peter that morning, but to them as well. Each knew that they had their moments of faith in their own hearts, but failures too, particularly when they hid during his trials and torture. Yet, like Peter, these failures would not be held against them. As history proves, these disciples and the others went on to do great things for the kingdom. They even gave up their own lives in the end, preaching the Gospel.
Therefore, no matter what you have or haven’t done for Christ during your lifetime, remember this story, for His forgiveness is just as much available for you as it was for Peter and the other disciples that morning. And as Jesus said to them, I love you and tend my lambs, so He says to you, “I love you without measure, go, and love others too in this way.”
To inspire, strengthen, and even lift your spirits read these passages during Easter, Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20, John 21, Acts 1:1-11, I Corinthians 15:5-7, and Matthew 16.