Jesus Gives Second Chances. All the Time. Ask Peter.

I finally finished reading through the gospels yesterday afternoon.

It was quite a refreshing read. I had never read through them all at once. But I learned so much. Perhaps soon I’ll write a post with my general reflections as well as posts that I’ve written during this time that are directly tied to something I read.

One of the final things in the book of John is the story of Jesus and Peter having their whole “feed my sheep” conversation. It’s in v. 15-19:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, 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.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

This is a classic passage that I’ve heard about hundreds of times. You could pull out a lot of things from this, but I want to focus on the redemption here.

Back in chapter 18, we saw Peter deny Jesus three times. In this passage, we see Jesus give Peter three opportunities to affirm his love for his Savior. And he does each and every time. Finally, after prophesying the way Peter was going to die, Jesus simply says, “Follow me.”

This hearkens back to the calling of the disciples. In Matthew 4:18-20, we see the calling of Peter and his brother Andrew:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Strange, isn’t it? The same command that was given at the beginning of Peter’s association with Jesus is given to him after perhaps the most notorious sin he had committed. Peter had straight up denied Jesus to others. He had denied ever knowing Him three times! You’d think by the third time he would have come around. But he didn’t. And then the rooster crowed, and he felt like crap.

Jesus doesn’t let any sin – even something as great as denying Him to others – get in the way of giving grace and allowing second chances. This is a radical thing! If there had been some kind of betrayal or denial like that of me, I’d be super hesitant to give a second chance.

But let’s not forget something. My guess is that Jesus had to make sure of Peter’s readiness for the task He was going to give him – building and leading the early Church on earth. So He asked him three times, “Do you love me?” And Peter said yes each time, and Jesus was ready with the response. “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” But Peter brings up a good point: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

If Jesus knew that Peter loved Him, why did He ask? Perhaps it was towards restoration of Peter’s confidence or of his mission, I’m not sure exactly. But I love it. Jesus knew Peter’s heart, and we even get a glimpse into Peter’s heart when he says to Jesus eight chapters before that he would be willing to die for Him (John 13:37).

Jesus gives second chances of obedience to those who are willing to follow Him. And this is a beautiful and glorious thing! Unless we know we’ve screwed up our first chance, we would have no reason to go after a second chance.

We can learn from Peter and Jesus here: second chances are not very far away. You’ve just got to be willing. That’s all. You don’t have to do any crazy work. Just surrender.