The Restoring Power of Jesus Christ
Dear Lord Jesus, Again and again I have betrayed You through my sins of thought, word, and deed. I am unworthy of any grace or blessing that You may give. And yet, because of the great love with which You loved me I once again come to Your mercy-seat for forgiveness. Grant unto me that forgiveness and restore me to the joy of Your salvation just as You did Your disciple Peter so long ago. Amen!
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." 16 He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. 18 "Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." 19 This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, "Follow Me."
THE RESTORING POWER OF JESUS CHRIST
I. Replaces Our Self-Confidence
II. Revives Us from Death
III. Renews Our Love for Him
Dear Friends in Christ, Fellow Redeemed!
There are a million products out there that claim to have the power to restore our old things, whatever they may be, and to make them as good as new. Of course, it’s not a new idea either. For thousands of years explorers searched for the “fountain of youth.” A source of water that supposedly makes one eternally young, eternally good as new. Herodotus wrote about it in the 5th century BC and in our very own country, the famous conquistador Ponce de Leon supposedly searched in Florida for this fountain.
Of course, there is no such thing as a “fountain of youth” that will make you eternally young. There is no skin cream that will make you look the same way you did 20 or 30 years ago. And even if we can repair some other things to as good or even better than the original, eventually if left to itself, everything breaks down. It naturally goes from a state of repair to disrepair, from a state of order to a state of disorder.
Today, however, we have before us an example of the RESTORING POWER OF JESUS CHRIST in the person of the apostle Simon Peter. And this restoring power is no simple recipe for youth, nor is it a temporary fix. When Jesus restores us, He restores us not just good as new, but better than new. And this restoration process has three steps. First, Jesus Replaces Our Self-Confidence. Then, He Revives Us from Death. And finally, He Renews Our Love for Him.
I. Replaces Our Self-Confidence
This Lenten season we had the opportunity to study many of the different sorrows that Jesus suffered, including the abandonment of all His disciples and including the betrayal of Judas. But one thing that we did not look at as closely was Peter’s denial. And this surely must have been one of the worst sorrows for Jesus because of the closeness of the relationship between these two friends.
When Jesus first came to Simon, as his name was then, he was a simple fisherman with his brother Andrew. That is, until Jesus told them to lower their nets once more for a huge catch of fish and then told them that He would make them “fishers of men.”
Peter was a part of the inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John. Peter was invited up to the mount of Transfiguration to witness Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah in His heavenly glory. Peter was invited to spend Maundy Thursday evening in prayer with Jesus as He faced the cross and pain.
Peter is also the most mentioned of all the disciples in the gospel. Despite beginning as a humble fisherman, Peter is clearly seen in the scriptures as a brash, bold, confident individual. This confidence was often a source of strength for Peter when he was putting that confidence in Jesus.
After all, Peter was the one who asked Jesus if he could join Him as He walked on the water. It takes some trust to step out of a boat into a sea! When many disciples were leaving Jesus because of His hard sayings, Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” to which Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:67-68).
Another time, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” To which Peter responded, “’You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock (that is on this confession that Peter made) I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13,17-18). So it is clear that at times, God granted clear understanding and knowledge to Peter.
However, this confidence also got Peter in trouble at times when he was putting it in himself or in his own understanding. In fact, right after that beautiful confession we just heard, Jesus was telling His disciples about His coming suffering and death and Peter grabbed Jesus and rebuked Him saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” And Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:22-23). Pretty harsh!
Or think of when Peter brashly cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in the garden of Gethsemane when he felt his master was threatened. And it was this self-confident attitude that eventually led Peter to brag to Jesus, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” (Matthew 26:33). And then Jesus spoke those words that would ring in Peter’s ears hours later, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:34).
Peter’s own confidence in his love for Christ likely echoed again in his mind when Jesus asked him, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Did Peter love his Savior more than any of the rest of the disciples, all of whom abandoned Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane?
Of course, you know what happened from there. Peter was confronted by a couple of servant girls and a few others and he, either by fear or embarrassment, denied three times that he had ever met Jesus. And then we read in Luke that “the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Can you imagine that look? This isn’t the playful look that is given at a child caught with its hand in the cookie jar. This was a look of disappointment and betrayal--a look that drove Peter to bitter tears.
Think of the guilt that must have been reeling through Peter’s head those three days that Jesus lay in the tomb. He had betrayed and denied not only his teacher and master, but his very dear friend whom he had sworn that he would die for.
This broke down all confidence that Peter had in himself. After all, Peter now had hard proof, from his own life, that if he had to rely on himself, on his own strength, on his own courage, on his own boldness, he would fail. God used this horrible denial, this horrible sin of Peter, to remove Peter’s self-confidence.
And that’s the lesson for us today as well. Each one of us here today have a self-confidence in ourselves that is found in our sinful nature. The Latin term for it is the opinion legis or the “opinion of the law.” It basically means that we tend to think that we can somehow keep the law of God to earn our own salvation. That there is something in me that makes me better than anyone else.
That was what Peter thought when he declared that he would die with Jesus before he would betray Him. And that is what our sinful nature tries to think too. We love to compare ourselves and our works to other people. Patting ourselves on the shoulder when we grade ourselves higher and making excuses when we grade slightly lower.
It is in our nature to rely on ourselves for salvation. Just a few weeks ago, I met a man who told me that he didn’t associate with any church in particular, but that he considered himself a pretty good person. That is the opinion legis.
Consider the words of Peter in our text. When Jesus asks him if he loves Him, Peter doesn’t boast about his love for his Lord. Instead, he places his confidence in Christ. “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He is putting his confidence in the knowledge and love of Christ.
The restoring power of Christ removes our self-confidence and replaces it with Christ-confidence. Again, and again in life we have failed to live up to the love our Savior showed us. But if we put our confidence in the One who never failed, we know that He will never fail.
II. Revives Us from Death
The sin of denial committed by Peter is quite often compared to the sin of betrayal committed by Judas. The major difference, however, being the reaction to that sin. You know, Judas was remorseful. In fact, he threw back the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders hoping to buy back Jesus’ freedom. But when this request was denied, the guilt and shame overwhelmed Judas and he went and hanged himself.
What do you think Peter thought of that? Do you think Peter wondered if perhaps he should go and do the same thing? In fact, perhaps it was out of concern for Peter that Jesus appeared to him alone on that very first Easter, before any of the other disciples. We don’t know if Peter had these thoughts from Scripture, but I’ll tell you that if I was the devil, I would have gone after Peter with that.
Satan seduced Judas into thinking that his sin was too bad, that it was too great for Jesus to forgive and, no doubt, he tried to do the same thing to Peter, and I know that he does the same thing to you and me.
Our wicked foe wants you to remain in death’s dark shadow! We read in Ephesians that we were “dead in our trespasses and sins,” “conducting ourselves in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1,3). But as dead to God as we were and as dead to God as our sins may seem to make us, we read that “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, . . . made us alive together with Christ, . . . and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
The resurrection of Christ assured Peter that his sin was not too great to be rescued from death and it should assure you of the same thing. As we read in 1 John, God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Yes, the restoring power of Jesus Christ revives us from death. As He said Himself, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
III. Renews Our Love for Him
However, it is the final of our three aspects of Christ’s restoring power that really sticks out in our text this morning, because three times our Savior asks Peter, “Do you love Me?” Actually, it is interesting, because Jesus calls Peter, Simon, even though He was the one who gave Peter that name. Peter means rock.
But Peter certainly didn’t act like a rock on the night of his denial and Jesus is reminding him of who he is by nature--not a rock, but a coward and a fool.
The back and forth conversation between Jesus and Peter has quite a different meaning in the original language. Because it seems like Peter is answering Jesus’ question about his love with a yes. “Do you love Me?” “Yes, I love You.” But there is more to it than that.
As I’m sure many of you know, there are different words in the New Testament for love. One such word is PHILEO, which means “brotherly love or affection.” Think of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Another word is AGAPE, which is a working love that loves regardless and often times despite the object of the love. AGAPE love is the perfect love that God showed to us by sending His Son to die while we were His enemies.
So when Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, He was asking, “Do you AGAPE love Me?” Do you love Me with the perfect love of God? To which Peter responds, “Lord, You know I PHILEO love You.” Peter is not saying that he doesn’t love Jesus that much, but that he can’t love Jesus that much. He is admitting that his love doesn’t measure up to God’s love for him.
And again, the second time it is the same. Do you AGAPE love Me? Lord, You know I PHILEO love You. And then the third time. The third question that caused Peter to grieve for the three denials that he committed against his Savior, just before the three nails were violently driven into his God’s flesh, and His Lord spent three long days in the tomb.
The third time Jesus asked Peter, “Do you PHILEO love Me?” To which Peter responds emphasizing Jesus’ omniscience saying, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I (PHILEO) love You.” Jesus was not lowering the standard of love that we are to have for one another. But rather, He was meeting a broken and beaten man where he was and using His restoring power to renew Peter’s love for Him.
After all, as John says in his first epistle, “We love Him, because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). Jesus’ restoring power renewed Peter’s love and it renews our love as well. So that we can be filled by the love we have seen on display over this past Lenten season and pass that love on to all whom we meet.
Peter kept the love of Christ in his life as he continued on in the ministry of Jesus. Even to the point of martyrdom. Jesus seems to have hinted that at the end of our text. “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.”
According to church tradition, Peter was crucified just like the One he denied knowing only with one distinction. Peter did not consider himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus, so he asked to be placed head down on his cross.
This case study of the life of the apostle Peter is truly an amazing look at the restoring power of Jesus Christ. Peter was overly confident in himself, he was dead in his sins, and his love for his God had failed.
Yet, it is the same for each of us without the working of Christ in our hearts. Christ’s perfect life removes any need for us to be confident in ourselves and allows us to put our trust solely in Him. Christ’s innocent death creates new life within us and removes the sting of sin from us forever. And finally, Christ’s resurrection renews our faltering love and overflows us with hearts of faith that hear, believe, and trust in God our Savior.
Some of the first words that Jesus ever said to Peter were, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Now here, despite Peter’s denial, Jesus has restored him again and He confirms it by once more welcoming Peter into His loving arms by saying, “Follow Me!”
This Easter season, may the restoring power of Jesus Christ so revive you and renew you so that you too may hear the invitation of the Savior to all who put their trust in Him. And let us all respond to our Savior’s invitation with the confident words of Peter, “Lord, You know all things; You know that [we] love You.” Amen.