Choosing Restoration

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  

John 21:17

Breakfast with Jesus

I know that John 21 includes more story than just Peter’s, but I believe the entire chapter is all about Peter.  I believe the miraculous catch in the first half of that chapter is still about Peter.  It is important backstory to the moment when he finally got to be reconciled to Christ after his dismal denial a week earlier.  In what surely must have been a state of depression, he had to sit idly by and watch each of the other disciples be utterly transformed before him by the various resurrection experiences.  Each time, he probably muttered to himself, “well isn’t that just great for John…or Thomas…or Mary…but when do I get my opportunity to make it right with Jesus?”

The miraculous catch in John 21 was that opportunity.  Peter leaped from the boat and ran/swam to Jesus as fast as he could!  Jesus was waiting for him.  And Jesus could not have prepared a more perfectly customized restoration process for Peter.  Breakfast on the beach together…eye-to-eye conversation for the first time since that ugly night outside the high priest’s courtyard…three affirmations and exhortations from Jesus…one for each of Peter’s denials.  No doubt, the Peter we see in Acts 4 would NOT have appeared but for this critical restoration in John 21.

Our Calling to Do Likewise

Just a matter of minutes before that Peter’s infamous denials, we see Jesus modeling behaviors for us and saying things like:

“For I have given you an example, that you should also do just as I have done to you…”  

John 13:15

“A new commandment I give to you, that you should love one an other: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

And we see similar language years later from the Apostle Paul:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:32

Just as Jesus forgave and restored Peter, we (the church) are called to a similar ministry. In fact, we as Christ followers should be setting the standard for the the rest of the world when it comes to forgiveness and restoration. However, when it comes to our fallen leaders, I’m pretty certain the church has not learned this lesson. Moreover, in this current social media culture of outrage, it seems that notions of forgiveness and restoration are more unpopular than they have ever been.

What We May Be Missing

Instead, in the church, we tend to shoot our wounded. We discard them. We shame them and leave them.

As I reflect on Peter’s restoration and marvel at the power we see in the “fully restored” Peter in Acts, I cannot help but wonder how many such opportunities the church has missed since then…opportunities to restore a fallen leader and to see him/her transformed into someone miraculously influential in the kingdom of God.  How many times have we missed an opportunity to make breakfast for a fallen brother or sister and to restore him/her gently but surely so that he/she becomes more spiritually powerful than we ever even imagined!

Choosing to See Spiritual Potential

When Jesus invited Peter to sit down and join him for breakfast, He did so knowing full well how far Peter had fallen and how possible it was that he would fall again.  He did it knowing of Peter’s “checkered” past (arrogance, ignorance, physical assault and cowardice) as well as his future mistakes (racism and prejudice).  Jesus restored him knowing that some of Peter’s own close friends would not have restored him had they known the full extent of his denial.  He did it knowing that Peter fell despite crystal clear warnings from Jesus ahead of time. But Jesus made a clear choice to see something else.

When Jesus began cooking that fish over an open fire in order to create the perfect environment for Peter’s restoration, He had only one clear vision in His mind about Peter…the vision of Peter standing before Roman and Jewish leadership and preaching boldly and powerfully in Jesus’ name.  Jesus knew what Peter was capable of.

My prayer for the church is that we would look and see what our own dear fallen brethren are capable of, that we would see the spirit of Christ in them and realize that is enough…that we would look beyond their mistakes to a spirit so powerful and so transforming that even the worst among us can be used to further the kingdom of God once we are fully restored.

How many “Peters” have we thrown away rather than restoring?  We can do this better, can’t we?

© Blake Coffee