Lessons of Love from the Life of Peter
Pastor Dominic Cardamone
An examination of Peter’s story in the Bible will demonstrate that he went from a faltering love to a fervent love for Christ. The difference was the Savior’s fortifying love in his life. We can relate to Peter; we falter in our love too. Like me, you may also desire to have a fervent love for Jesus. Thankfully there is Jesus’ fortifying love to help us go from faltering to fervent in our love for Him!
In John 21:1-19, Jesus came to Peter and the nature of the conversation we read about in this passage was one of restoration. Why? Because Peter needed it. He had faltered in his love for Jesus. What characterized his faltering love? Consider these episodes from Peter’s life prior to this conversation. The descriptions may be symptomatic of our own faltering love for the Savior.
Peter was boastful and proud. In the upper room, Jesus had just told the disciples that all of them would forsake Him. Peter thought he knew better than Jesus and proudly exclaimed that he was more spiritually astute than the other disciples and would never deny the Lord. (See Matthew 26:31-35.) Pride and a haughty spirit preceded his fall (Proverbs 16:18).
Peter was bypassing spiritual disciplines. I don’t know if Peter had a personal copy of the Hebrew scriptures, but I do know he had Jesus, the Living Word, right in front of him. In the garden just before Jesus was arrested, Peter failed to heed the words of Christ and to pray. Each time Jesus came to check on Peter, Jesus found him sleeping. (See Matthew 26:36-45.) When the hour of temptation came to Peter, he was not prepared.
Peter was brash. When Judas betrayed Jesus and led the religious leaders to arrest Him, Peter tried to take matters into his own hands. The Bible record tells us that he drew out his sword and cut Malchus, the servant of the high priest’s, ear off. How foolish Peter must have felt when he heard the words of Jesus in Matthew 26:52-53, “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” While in some respects Peter was acting in zeal for Jesus, it was poor conduct. Peter was acting in the flesh and in a self-assertive manner instead of being Savior-sensitive. He received no warrant from Jesus to engage in this behavior. In fact, Peter was acting in opposition to God’s will (Christ’s sufferings).
Peter was brushing-off his association with Jesus. You know what happens here. It’s the infamous account of Peter denying the Lord three times just as Jesus said he would. (See Matthew 26:57-58, 69-74.) I don’t think Peter planned to deny Jesus when he sat outside Caiaphas’ palace. However, Peter was already on a downward spiral and his love for Jesus had faltered. How gut-wrenching it must have been when Peter’s eyes met the eyes of the One he had said he would love and not forsake but now denied with cursing and an oath. (See Luke 22:61-62.)
Back in John 21, Peter appears to be in a bad way. No doubt he has been plagued by the guilt of his faltering love and his actions in denying the Lord. John 21:1-3 possibly is indicating that Peter resolved to return to his old profession of fishing and to give up on ministry altogether. That night, they (Peter and some of the other disciples who decided to join Peter in fishing) caught nothing. Interestingly, Peter had been in the no-fish-catching scenario before when Jesus first called him to be his disciple years earlier. (See Luke 5:1-11.) Jesus was now come to Peter in fortifying love to forgive and restore Peter to his calling.
Jesus already knew Peter would falter in his love for Him and had been praying for Peter. I believe this is what Jesus alludes to in Luke 22:31-32 prior to His arrest and crucifixion. I also believe that Jesus’ conversation with Peter in John 21 is encouraging Peter to do what He told him to do in Luke 22:31-32 by returning from his denial of the Lord (Jesus says when he is “converted”) and strengthening his brothers in Christ (get back to ministering). What’s the point? While Peter was faltering in his love for the Savior, the Savior was being faithful in His love for Peter. Even here in John 21, we find Him lovingly fortifying and restoring Peter. Jesus sought Peter out and helped him to see himself as wrong and weak and with a greater need for the Lord. Peter finally came to the place where he acknowledged his fault and surrenders himself to Jesus. Amazingly, Jesus still desired to use Peter. Jesus’ repeated statements of “feed my sheep/lambs” were re-commissioning Peter in the work to which God had called him. Peter experienced the grace, forgiveness, and love of Jesus in a tremendous way!
After this conversation in John 21, where do we find Peter in the Scriptures? We find him displaying a fervent love for the Savior. He spends the rest of his days passionately serving Jesus. To give you an idea, consider these passages. In Acts 2:14-ff, Peter stands up and preaches a message concerning Jesus during Pentecost, and about 3,000 souls get saved and are added to the church. Peter and John go to the temple to pray in Acts 3:1-ff and by God’s power heal the lame man by the gate Beautiful. Peter is able to use that occasion as a platform to preach the gospel of Christ… 5,000 souls get saved. The list of all that Peter did to serve Jesus could go on. How incredible! When Peter was fortified by the love of Jesus Christ, it changed his life.
Have you ever faltered in your love for Jesus? Maybe you said or did something you shouldn’t have. Or perhaps you have neglected to do something you should have done. I have been there. Can I encourage you to run to Jesus? His arms are wide open and He will fortify you with His love, forgiveness, and grace. And when He does, live your life in passionate service to Him!