A third time He asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed My sheep.”
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2 Samuel 19:11-20:13
“They ate the bread and fish that morning, I doubt not, in silent self- humiliation. Peter looked with tears in his eyes at that fire of coals, remembering how he stood and warmed himself when he denied his Master. Thomas stood there, wondering that he should have dared to ask such proofs of a fact most clear. All of them felt that they could shrink into nothing in his divine presence, since they had behaved so ill.” (Spurgeon)
You can’t help but to feel empathy for Peter. After declaring that he loved Jesus more than all the other disciples, he then succumbed to fear and denied Him three times — exactly as Jesus had said he would.
He must have thought of little else since that awful night. When Jesus had looked across the courtyard and caught his eye, just as the rooster was crowing, Peter realized what he had done. He must have lived in a state of shame and guilt since that very moment.
So when he realized the risen Lord was waiting for him on the shores of the Galilee, Peter’s hunger for restoration drove him to dive overboard and start swimming. The boat wouldn’t move quickly enough for him.
And then we see the beauty of the Lord’s patient restoration. Peter had denied Him three times — and so Jesus gives him three opportunities to confess his love. Not only that, He gives Peter a commission and a glimpse of his future. I think of everything that transpired on that beach, this may have meant the most to Peter. Because in telling him that he would die a death by crucifixion, Jesus was really saying, “Peter, you won’t deny Me again. You’ll stand firm right to the end. And in the manner of your death, you will glorify Me.”
Church legend tells us that many years later, Peter and his wife were imprisoned for their faith, and sentenced to die. As his wife was being led out first to face her death, Peter encouraged her with these words: “Remember the Lord!” And when it came his turn, he begged his executioners to crucify him upside down, because he said he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.
That’s a far cry from the man who had denied he knew Jesus, not once, but three times. But that’s what forgiveness can do in a heart.