Derek Smith, Lead Pastor LHBC 

John 21:15-19
15 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.” 16 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.” 17 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. 18 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.” 19 (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.”

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything.” Thomas Edison spent more than $100,000 to obtain 6,000 different fiber specimens, and only three of them proved satisfactory. He was quoted as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  His friend Henry Ford was right when he said that failure was the “opportunity to begin again, more intelligently.” As one simple man once put it, “if you ain’t failin’ you ain’t tryin’!” Proverbs 24:16 says, “the righteous falls seven times and rises again” 

Failure has a way of growing us, or better yet, the Lord has a way of growing us through our failures. If there is anyone who understood failure in the Bible it was Peter. As Christ was being led to the cross Peter denied the Lord three times, the last time being an expletive laced rebuttal to a little girl. Talk about failing! Peter was devastated. The man he had vowed never to leave, his Lord and personal friend, he had vehemently denounced in His greatest time of need. Scripture says after the third denial their eyes met and Peter couldn’t stand the pain. Broken and weeping he ran from the crowd in shame and despair. The Lord appears to Peter and the others after His resurrection not many days later and there is excitement and jubilation, but for Peter that hurt and guilt remained. In John 21 we find him back to his old way of life, fishing. Quite possibly he was giving up on his calling to lead the church seeing himself as damaged unusable goods. “I’ll just return to what I know,” Peter thought, but he can’t even do that right. He fishes all night and catches nothing. 

Right there, in the midst of his brokenness, at the height of shame and guilt which has now turned to flight, Jesus appears. From the very first second of this appearance he pours out grace on Peter and the disciples and rekindles their calling and passion for ministry. First, consider the miracle. Right before this it says Jesus performs the exact same miracle He performed on the day He called them to follow Him. Jesus told them just three years earlier, after a night fishing with no fish to show for it, to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. Scripture tells us right then they had a catch of fish so large they couldn’t haul it in (Luke 5:1-11). Now, the same miracle, taking Peter and the disciples back to the first day they met reminding them of that call and all the miracles and ministry they had seen and done together. It also affirmed that His grace is sufficient.  Second, consider the setting. John 21:9 says when they got to land with the fish Jesus had started a charcoal fire. The only other time a charcoal fire is spoken of in the gospel of John is the one where Peter was standing warming himself as he denied Christ three times. Christ reenacts that moment, and I’m sure as soon as they made eye contact seated at that fire the sting of Peter’s sin reignited in his heart. The Lord had to take him back to the failure in order to set him free from it. Third, consider the questions. Peter had three denials, and Christ asked three times for Peter to reaffirm his love. Through this series of questions Christ Jesus showers Peter with His grace and reminds him that the call on his life had only just begun, with the main idea being faithful service to the sheep is founded on love for the shepherd. 

I’ve got some great news today, the greatest news ever told, Jesus is the Lord of our mistakes. Through His death on the cross all our sin, shame, and guilt is taken away. Our effectiveness in serving the Lord is not based on our faithfulness as much as it is based on His. Know today that no matter what failures you’ve had in life Jesus died to pay for each one, and He rose from the dead so we can victoriously serve Him. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, so don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise. Child of God, you are loved, empowered, and equipped by the Lord so don’t quit. We all will fail, but this never means we are failures. Run to the Lord and rest in His love and grace. He is the Lord of our mistakes. 

Father God, I have failed you so many times. Like the Apostle Paul declared, “I am the chief of sinners.” However, I thank You for saving my soul. I am forever grateful for You sending Your Son to pay for my sin. I know there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and I’m grateful for the privilege to be able to serve You still. In Jesus name I pray, amen. 

2 Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.