When we think of Peter, disciple of Jesus, we often remember how he denied knowing Jesus three times before the crucifixion. But before we consider his failure, we also want to emphasize that Peter finished well. According to tradition—and as Jesus hinted in John 21:18–19—Peter was martyred for his faith by crucifixion. When the time came, Peter said he wasn’t worthy to die in the same manner as Christ, and so he asked to be nailed to his cross upside- down. What God-glorifying humility!
As we read in today’s passage, Peter failed his Lord by denying Him three times. He failed even though Jesus had directly warned him (Luke 22:34) and prayed for him (v. 32). He failed despite specifically declaring he would remain loyal even if Jesus faced prison and death (v. 33). He failed not once but three times in a row (vv. 56–60). At the very moment the rooster crowed, his eyes met Jesus’ from across a courtyard (vv. 60–61). No wonder “he went outside and wept bitterly” (v. 62).
Why would Jesus want a disciple like that? Yet in John 21:15–19, Jesus mercifully forgave and restored Peter, despite his colossal failure. His three questions and affirmations beautifully balance Peter’s three previous denials. Peter didn’t have to earn his way back. Jesus’ love covered it all. He didn’t just restore Peter to fellowship, He called him to a lifetime of pastoral ministry!
What’s more, guided by the Spirit, Peter told his story to others. Anyone who has heard or read the Gospels—that is, the entire church through all of history!—knows how badly Peter failed, and how perfectly Christ loved him and loves us. To God be the glory!
>> Do you ever fear that your failure is so bad that God cannot forgive you? The apostle Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The answer? No one, not even we ourselves, can do that! Take heart, be encouraged—we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom. 8:35–39).
Today’s story of Jesus’ forgiving and restoring Peter reassures us of God’s love. We can indeed take heart, be encouraged, and thank our Savior. Nothing can separate us from His love!