I suppose very few believers on the Lord Jesus Christ would deny in principle that their Savior has rights to them, or has a claim on their lives, by virtue of the amazing love that brought Him down so low as to die on the cross for their sins. But how we answer to the Lord’s claim on us in our daily lives is too often with a lack of devotion and in regrettable failure.
Simon Peter lived, ministered, and then died as a martyr in devotion to the Lord Jesus, and it was the love of his Master that constrained him1 throughout his course as a servant and an apostle of Christ. Let’s consider in a brief meditation a particular incident in Peter’s life that no doubt had a lasting impact on his thought and his activity in the service of his Savior.
In the last chapter of the gospel of John, Jesus appears to some of His disciples after they had gone fishing at Peter’s suggestion. This chapter of the Bible seems to have as a primary purpose a lesson in the ways of the Lord in restoring His own after failure. In this case, Peter was in need of restoration in the presence of his brethren after so publicly failing the Lord by denying Him in the courtyard of the high priest while Jesus was on trial there.2 The Lord had appeared to Simon after His resurrection, no doubt to assure him of His own unwavering love for the faltering disciple and to restore his soul privately.3 But Peter needed more to prepare him for his path of service.
I hardly need to mention the way the Lord Jesus showed His love to Peter throughout His ministry here, by claiming him in naming him “Cephas” in John 1, by healing his mother-in-law in Matthew 8, by saving him from the waves in Matthew 14, by entrusting him with the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16, and by giving him a glimpse of kingdom glory with a few others at His glorious transfiguration in Matthew 17. Other examples could be cited. Notice the touching manner in which Jesus looked on Peter after his denials; someone has described it as a “look of wounded love”, moving Peter to repentance, the requisite first step in the restoration of the soul. But Peter needed yet one more session with his Master to cement in his conscious mind how real was the Lord’s love for him, and therefore how real Christ’s claim on his devotion.
Jesus in His restoring grace probes Peter’s heart three times, with three different emphases, in John 21:15-23. The perfection of the Lord’s dealings with His own, as evidenced here, warrants much more attention than a brief essay, but we believe that Peter’s heart was not only touched but fully sounded in the matter of his failure. Little doubt remained that the Lord Jesus had already planned out Peter’s future, both concerning his ministry of feeding Christ’s sheep and lambs, and concerning Peter’s eventual involuntary departure via the article of death.
But Peter’s mind needed a final word from the Lord on that occasion, so as to focus his thoughts on what the Lord Jesus could rightfully claim from him going forward into a future where temporal danger lay for all of the disciples. John clearly enjoyed the special love of the Lord Jesus, and we can perceive that because John refers to himself multiple times, including at this juncture, as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. Now Peter is a little too interested in what would become of John, asking: “Lord, what about this man?” And the answer of the Lord Jesus is exquisite in its tone of tender correction, as well as in its suitability to the hearts of each of His disciples ever since: “If I will that he abide until I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou Me.”
Only true, unselfish love can make such a demand or claim upon the soul. The Lord Jesus Christ is eminently worthy to be followed, worthy of the devotion of all those whom He has redeemed with His precious blood, and whom He loves to the end,4 to the uttermost. Peter received and understood that gracious message of the deeply personal love of his Savior for him, and we can by faith enjoy it and apply it in each of our redeemed souls. May Peter’s courage and devotion to His Lord and Master inspire each of us to the same.
1 II Corinthians 5:14 2 Luke 22:54-62 3 Luke 24:34 4 John 13:1