Reinstatement of Peter
The time after the crucifixion and resurrection was one of the most uncertain and most hazardous in the history of the church. The disciples were fearful, doubting and sometimes divided. They did not know if they might be next, if there was any possibility of a future for the movement on which they had staked their lives. The last two chapters in John’s gospel tell us of this time. John 21:15-17 is commonly known as the reinstatement, restoration or re-commissioning of Peter. But out of context, what is going on is not completely clear.
To prepare for the message this Sunday, I suggest reading the entirety of John 21 to put these verses in context. I find the New Living Translation to bring added clarity to the passage. Peter had denied Jesus three times on the night he was taken and felt himself a broken man, questioning himself and his fitness to do God’s work. Peter and some of the others went back to what they knew best, fishing, when Jesus came to them the last time. Jesus challenges Peter asking him if he loves him more than these, the fish, asking him which future he will choose. He asks him three times, a number we see over and over in the Bible for spiritual events and matching the number of Peter’s denials. Each time Peter responds in the affirmative and Jesus responds to Peter’s affirmation by charging Peter to carry on his work. And thereby turned the fate of the church. Each of us is imperfect, but it should not prevent us from carrying out God’s work.