Lovest thou Me?
LOVE WILL BRING MIRACULOUS CHANGES
There are many signs that Peter did love Jesus, even early in his discipleship. He believed Christ came down from the Father (Jn. 17:8). He confessed Christ (Matt. 16:16, Jn. 6:68-69). He received spiritual revelations (Matt. 16:16). He was told he had eternal life (Jn. 17:1-3). He was convicted of sin by the Spirit (Jn. 16:8-11). He was cleansed of sin (Jn. 13:8,10, 15:3). His name was written in heaven (Lk. 10:20). He had the Spirit (Matt. 10:20). He had power over sickness and disease (Matt. 10:1-8).
Yet, Peter backslid, changing from his loyalty and faith, to disloyalty and fear, and needed to be changed back again, and restored. Some think that they can arrive at a point in salvation where they will never need to fear backsliding. Peter found that there is a way to insure that one will not backslide. Peter is one who learned by experience that one can backslide if careless with spiritual things.
The steps in the backsliding of Peter are these:
Boasting in self confidence
(Matt. 26:33, Proverbs 6:18)
Disputed what he was told by Jesus
Slept instead of praying
Failed to mortify the flesh
Resisted instead of submitting
Forsook Christ and fled
Followed afar off
Sat with Jesus' enemies
Gave up hope, was discouraged
Became afraid of men
Lied, denied the Lord
This failure of Peter was devastating. How could he have failed the Lord
that he loved and respected so much? Peter was totally shaken by his failure. The memories of his 3 1/2 years of Jesus' teachings made an indelible impression.
The time that Jesus washed his feet probably weighed heavily upon Peter. Peter knew that Jesus had warned of the devil's desire to capture and to hurt him. Peter could remember that Jesus had promised only a few hours before that He would intercede for him. Jesus had also told Peter that he would be restored, and would strengthen his brethren. Jesus had even in detail predicted how Peter would have a three-fold denial. These recollections of his loving Lord Jesus brought Peter to the place where the Lord could have mercy and the Spirit could impart a godly, repentant spirit. Peter needed a change, again. He needed to once again be remodeled into a disciple of faith.
How anxious Peter must have received the word after the resurrection, to meet Jesus in Galilee. This special appearance to Peter lifted the devastation that he felt. After the weary night of fishing, Peter could still throw off his garment and swim ashore to see his Savior.
Jesus assured Peter that he would be of great use to the Lord's plan. (Mk. 16:7,Lk. 24:34, Jn. 21:15-19)
We all face failure, for none of us are as perfect as we'd like others to think. We have the same loving, forgiving Lord. Jesus wants to restore and to change each of us back to useful service.
The discipleship of Peter shows a great lesson on the MERCY OF GOD.
Peter asked Jesus, "how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?" Peter had likely been acquainted with people who would wrong him, repent, and wrong him again, and again. This changeableness of people is a trial we have all faced. But, Peter himself was that kind of person himself.
Jesus answered "until 70 times 7." Peter himself would sin many times,
even while following the Lord. The Lord Jesus kept pardoning him. Peter was learning firsthand of the MERCY OF GOD. Peter, who sinned and needed to repent many times found that the Lord could forgive this changeableness of Peter. However, the Lord Jesus forgave such changeableness with a purpose in mind i.e. to change Peter to an unchangeable saint, in place of a vacillating, failing-by-weakness, and imperfect person.
Peter's main problem was his PRIDE.
Peter's boastfulness, over-confidence, and arrogance made it necessary for the Lord to allow events in his life to bring him to HUMILIATION AND DEFEAT. Peter had to learn SELF-DISTRUST.
Paul learned that "when I am weak, then am I strong" but Peter was striving for power, and wanting others to notice his power. Jesus allowed him to face failure, shame, and weakness. This broke his pride and he learned, as Jesus had taught: "APART FROM ME, YOU CAN DO NOTHING."
Before he came to that realization, he had over-confidently, in pride, said: "THOUGH ALL MEN SHOULD BE OFFENDED IN THEE, I WILL NEVER BE OFFENDED."
Jesus said; "SATAN HATH DESIRED TO HAVE YOU, THAT HE MIGHT SIFT YOU AS WHEAT, BUT I HAVE MADE SUPPLICATION FOR THEE, THAT THY FAITH FAIL NOT."
Peter answered: "LORD, WITH THEE I AM READY TO GO TO PRISON AND TO DEATH."
Yet, before the night was over, he denied the Lord three times. His pride and over-confidence brought him to shame. Peter learned, and changed, due to the MERCY OF GOD.
Peter wrote in his epistles:"BE SOBER, BE WATCHFUL; YOUR ADVERSARY THE DEVIL, AS A ROARING LION, WALKETH ABOUT, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR."
It took much, and frequent MERCY from the Lord to bring about the changes in Peter. By the day of Pentecost there was a marked and distinct change in Peter.
Nearly everything he did from that point was a witness of the power of God
to change a life. Because the Lord had MERCY time after time, many great things could happen in the life of Peter:
His mother-in-law was healed in Capernaum (Mt. 8:14).
He saw a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 1:1-11).
He walked upon water (Matthew 14:28).
He saw Moses and Elijah converse with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5).
He saw the empty tomb, and later that same day saw Jesus alive (Luke 24:34).
He became a predominant figure in the apostolic church.
He counseled in the choice of Matthias (Acts 1:15-26).
His daring faith released God's miracle working power.
His first sermon resulted in 3000 conversions.
He was no longer timid. He bravely told the lame man at the temple to rise and walk. (Acts 3, 4) When arrested by the Sanhedrin, and told to cease preaching Jesus, Peter refused to be silent.
He was the spokesman for the church when the Lord cleansed the revival church of the sins of Ananias and Sapphira.
There were many other miracles in his ministry.
Even his shadow, falling on the sick, brought healings.
An angel released him from prison. (Acts 12)
Tabitha was resurrected at Lydda.
Aeneas was healed of palsy.
He was the one chosen to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Then he defended the spreading of the gospel to the Gentiles to the others at Jerusalem.
These showed great, and abrupt changes in the person of Peter. Yet, the interrogation of Peter, shortly before the Lord ascended to heaven, is proof the Lord wanted even more change in Peter. The INTERROGATION of Peter by the Lord, inspired one of the great changes in Peter’s life. He was challenged, and led to this great change by the question of Jesus.
LOOK AT JESUS’ INTERROGATION OF PETER:
John 21:15-19 (KJV)
15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? He saith unto Him, Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee. He saith unto him, Feed My sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me? Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto Him, Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed My sheep.
18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
19 This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me.
Jesus challenged even the love of Peter when He asked Peter three times:
"Lovest thou Me?"
Three times Peter said a more strong word to indicate love, Peter used the word "phileo" which means "a love based on respect and admiration, as a close friendship."
Jesus used the word "agapao" which refers to "a spiritual love, a love which can be used with even enemies, sinners of great evil." One can love (agapao) their souls, but disrespect their debased person, their evil character, and their wicked deeds.
Peter used a word to indicate that he loved Jesus with a love deeper, than that. After the third time, Peter was broken by the challenging of his love by Jesus, and responded with "THOU KNOWEST THAT I LOVE THEE!"
Love for our Lord will get us through many difficult times, through many failures, and through the persecution of the world. Peter was able to survive his weaknesses, frailties, and sins, because he kept on loving, trusting, and desiring to be with his Lord Jesus.
Peter's nature had been refined by the Spirit. His constant and frequent changing to sin, and back again to sainthood had ceased. He had become an unchangeable saint. He had overcome his carnality. He had experienced a powerful change.
In his epistles, Peter tries to teach others what helped him make such abrupt changes. He tries to help others make the same abrupt changes. He teaches the necessity of:
Heart purification in obeying the truth (I Peter 1:22)
A meek and quiet spirit (I Peter 3:4)
No longer living in the lusts of the flesh, but according to God in the Spirit (I Pet. 4:2,6)
Submitting, humbling self (I Pet. 5:5-6)
Studying the prophets, and Paul's deeper insights (II Pet.3:15-16)
Feeding the flock (I Pet. 5:2)
Proof of the changes, and of the deepening fellowship love of Peter for Jesus, is found in his history following this interrogation. Peter died as a martyr, according to tradition, in Rome about 67 A.D., when he was about 75 years old. His death had been predicted by the Lord in John 21:18-19, II Peter 1:14). One story in the traditions of the church tell that during the persecutions of Christians by Nero, Peter fled from Rome to avoid death. As he hurried along the Appian Way, about two miles from Rome, he met Jesus walking toward Rome. This startled Peter, for he knew Jesus had ascended to heaven, and yet, here Peter finds his Lord walking toward Rome. Peter asked: "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered: "I am going to Rome to be crucified a second time." Peter was shaken, and immediately returned to Rome, kept his head erect, and witnessed bravely for Jesus. He did not want to change again back into that fearful disciple he had once been when the maid pointed her finger at him in accusation. He wanted to stand firm in faith, willing to even die with and for his Lord Jesus. Soon, Nero had him arrested and put on trial. Tradition says that he was hung upon a cross with his head downward. Peter had requested that they crucify him in this way, if he had to be crucified. He did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as was his Lord. Thus, even in death, he was a witness of the greatness of Jesus Christ, and of Peter’s deep love for Him.
How marvelously Peter had changed from denial when a maid pointed her finger, fearing a crucifixion, into a saint who was unwilling to die in as comfortable a way as the Lord, dying upon a cross, upside down.
The love of Peter, for his the Lord Jesus, is very evident throughout the gospels. This Peter had left all to follow Jesus. He said to his Lord at the last supper, "Thou shalt never wash my feet." He drew his sword to defend his Lord. The love for Jesus was the one unchanging thing in Peter's life. Because he had such love for Jesus, he allowed the Lord to work on his life,
and bring about changes in his character and personality.
The Lord likely has, and will yet more, interrogate each of us, with similar words, as given to Peter: LOVEST THOU ME?