The restoration of Peter (April 23, 2023)

A lesson for April 23, 2023, about redeeming love.

Outlook Standard Lesson for April 23, 2023
Scripture passage and lesson focus: 
John 21:15-25

Christ’s resurrection has far-reaching implications for our everyday lives as believers and followers of Christ. How does Christ’s resurrection shape our relationships? Can an encounter with the resurrected Christ restore a relationship that seems lost? Does connection with Christ reconnect us with each other? Is hurt too deep for the depths of Christ’s love? Is a relationship that suffers betrayal and denial doomed forever? In this lesson, we follow a conversation between Jesus and Peter where Jesus offers Peter forgiveness and complete restoration that catapults Peter full-on into Christ’s mission.

Is it fair to say that sometimes human relationships are broken beyond repair? What, then, does restoration look like? What, then, does it take to be restored? Can one be fully restored without reconciliation?

While some human relationships may never be restored, what we can trust is that our relationship with God is fully restored because of God’s love, grace, mercy and forgiveness offered to us, unconditionally, through Christ Jesus.

How did we get here?

When God reveals to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, son of the living God (Matthew 17:5), you can imagine that Peter’s bond with Jesus is strong. In that moment, Peter is so keenly aware of who Jesus is. How can anything come between their friendship, their bond as brothers, their connection as teacher and disciple? No one would dare question Peter’s loyalty after receiving such a revelation from God. Peter was in step with Jesus who had given his life meaning and purpose, even purpose beyond the physical world. Upon the revelation Peter receives, Christ’s church would be built, and Peter would have firsthand experience with participating with Christ in this church-building mission. (See Matthew 16:13-19; Mark 8:27-30.)

Yet, Peter somehow finds a way to damage the bond. Peter fails Jesus. Ok, that is harsh. It’s true though. Three times, while the charcoal fire warms his body, Peter is questioned about his relationship with Jesus. Three times, while the charcoal fire burns, Peter, knowing full well the depths of his ties with Jesus, denies his position as Jesus’ disciple. Full stop. Then the cock crows, confirming the warning Jesus gave to Peter about his betrayal. A broken relationship now replaced the solid partnership that once existed. (See John 18:17, 25, 27.)

Enter guilt. Enter shame.

When have we failed Jesus, too? What actions do we engage in or leave unengaged that harm our relationship with Christ?

Oh, how he loves

Once guilt and shame have entered our hearts and minds as a result of a broken or damaged relationship, whether or not it is our own fault, it is difficult to imagine how that relationship can ever be restored. Peter must have thought this. Jesus must have known this, so he makes a concerted effort to invite Peter back into a right relationship with him.

Jesus appears to ask an obvious question, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (v. 15). Peter replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you,” (v. 15). Jesus invites Peter into his mission: “Feed my lambs” (v. 15).

Jesus repeats his question, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (v. 16). Peter replies, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you” and the angst intensifies (v.15). Why is Jesus asking Peter this question again? Didn’t he hear Peter the first time? Oh, but Peter has been asked the same question twice before, so we bear with the story.

Jesus invites Peter into his mission: “Tend my sheep” (v. 16).

A third time, Jesus questions Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” (v. 17). The fun is sucked out of the breakfast fellowship. The air is sucked out of Peter’s lungs. Through pain, Peter replies, “Lord, you know everything you know that I love you,” (v. 17). Didn’t Jesus hear him the second time? Oh, but Peter has been asked the same question thrice before, hasn’t he? A charcoal fire crackled the day he betrayed Jesus too.

This time, the fire witnesses to Peter’s confirmation and invitation into Christ’s mission: “Feed my sheep” (v. 17).

Jesus restores Peter to true discipleship, to fellowship and to friendship. Now, he can truly shepherd Christ’s people, as we will see Peter do in other biblical texts. Christ’s love brings Peter back into the way and the love Peter finds in Christ restores him to wholeness. Now that Peter is restored, he can participate in Christ’s mission.

And now that Christ’s love has restored you…

Questions for reflection

  1. Is there a relationship in your life that needs restoration?
  2. In what ways have you felt your relationship with Christ was harmed? What does it look like to follow Christ out of love? Who are the lambs and sheep in your life that need shepherding?

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