A little over a year ago my wife, Myrna, and I sat on the shore of the Sea of Galilee not far from Capernaum. This was a little sea town where Jesus had asked Peter to be one of His disciples at the very beginning of His ministry. As Myrna and I had our devotions, we could feel the presence of the Lord when the sun came up. We also knew that we were not far from where Jesus had a special breakfast with Peter not long before He ascended to heaven. Perhaps, Myrna and I were right on the spot where they had breakfast together, who knows?
The breakfast took place about 33 days after Jesus’ resurrection. It was a special breakfast because Jesus was going to tell Peter and the others something they needed to know that would help them the rest of their lives.
After the resurrection, Peter had only met with Jesus three times, and all within the first eight days of this incredible miracle. During the following days Jesus would spend most of His time with others who had been faithful to Him, possibly up to 500, as I Corinthians 15 indicates. Who were they? Not completely sure, but very well could have been those who Jesus helped, healed, or just ministered to with His words.
Nevertheless, the disciples were to meet Jesus at the end of this time on a mountain in Galilee, probably Mt. Carmel. From there they would take a four day walk to Jerusalem where He would ascend to heaven in their presence.
Before they got to the mountain to make their last long trek with Him, Peter and six other disciples ran into Him on the Sea of Galilee. Evidently Peter had decided during this absence from the Lord to go back home and start fishing again. Six other disciples joined him; most of them were fisherman like himself. When Peter and the others cast out their nets early one morning, they heard Jesus’ voice on shore. He was beckoning them to come ashore and join Him. They knew it was His voice, for they had heard it many times before. As they made their way to shore where Jesus had built a fire, Peter couldn’t wait and jumped into the water, clothes and all, to get there as soon as he could.
As they were all eating breakfast together, Jesus asked Peter some very probing, yet some very healing questions. In respect to Peter, you have to wonder what he was thinking about himself in regards to his spiritual life and the Lord. On the one hand he could bring up to himself some great memories and experiences He had with Lord. After all he had given up his fishing profession to follow Jesus and walked on water with Him, that is until he panicked and began to drown. He was even the first to identify Jesus as the Messiah when others stayed silent. And when they came to take Jesus, he took out his sword and began to fight. Peter also knew that he had denied Jesus three times during His greatest time of need, and had run and hid with the other disciples when Jesus was being tortured and crucified.
Perhaps during this fishing trip, which turned out to be the last for him, Peter was thinking about all of these things, particularly the failures. Maybe that is why he was out fishing again, saying to himself, “Well, back to fishing, at least I can do this, for I am definitely not qualified to be the kind of disciple Jesus wanted me to be.”
So, as they all gathered on shore and began to cook and eat their fish and bread, Jesus asked Peter in front of all, “Do you love Me?” Now there are a few words used in the New Testament for love, one is agape and the other is phileo. This latter love speaks only of friendship, the kind you could have with many who shared your common interests. Agape, on the other hand, was a much deeper love, the kind that would cause you to do everything possible for another, even at the cost of your own life. This is the love Jesus had for the disciples and the rest of mankind when He gave up His life on the cross.
When Jesus said to Peter, “Do you love me?” He used agape love when asking His question. In response, Peter must have thought for a minute or two before answering, because he responded with phileo love. In other words, “Yes, Lord, I love you like a friend.” This might have surprised some of the disciples listening, because Peter seemed to always be the one who answered confidently and boldly, sometimes for the good, and sometimes not. Jesus did not rebuke him for his answer, but simply said, “Tend my lambs.”
Then a few minutes passed and after eating a few more bites of fish and bread, Jesus asks him for a second time, “Simon, son of John, “Do you love me?” Again Jesus uses agape love in His question. Peter begins to struggle within, and answers back, “I love you like a friend.” Jesus once again does not rebuke him, but simply says, “Shepherd my sheep.”
Finally for a third time, Jesus says, “Do you love me like a friend, using phileo this time around. Peter really struggles now and begins to grieve, but in his struggle says, “You know I love you.” Jesus says one last time, “Then tend my sheep.”
Jesus knew Peter was troubled within, so what was Jesus doing with him during this time, and what was His message to him? I believe Jesus was restoring Peter, because in each of Jesus’ answers, “Tend my lambs, shepherd my sheep, and tend my sheep,” none of his responsibilities were removed. In my interpretation, Jesus was saying to Peter, you are still the rock, and upon what you teach about me and the kingdom, I will build my church. I told you I would make you a fisher of men at the beginning, and a fisher of men you will be. In respect to your past failures, and even your inability today to love me as I love you, you are forgiven. In time you will love Me and others as I have loved you. Count on it!
As breakfast ended, the other disciples knew that Jesus was not just talking to Peter that morning, but to them as well, because each went on to do great things for the kingdom before their lives were taken from them. And when they gave their lives up, they did so without any fear or panic.
Maybe you need a breakfast time with the Lord during this Easter celebration. If so He is waiting on shore with the campfire lit.
(Read all of them this Easter)
Matthew 28, Mark 16 , Luke 24, John 20, John 21, Acts 1:1-11 , I Corinthians 15:5-7, Matthew 16