Gospel Insights

by Michael Smith

 

Chapter Twenty Two

DISCIPLESHIP
(AND THE RESTORATION OF PETER)
 

Please read John 21:1-19

 

There had been no prophet in Israel for four hundred years since the prophet Malachi, so when, after such a long spiritual drought, John the Baptist suddenly began preaching "in the spirit and power of Elijah" [1] many devout people in Israel who were very thirsty for the Word of God flocked to hear his message of repentance.  Among those who heard John preach about the One Who would soon come to deliver them from their sins [2] was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter.  When John pointed out Jesus as the "Lamb of God" and said He was the Lord Whom they were seeking, Andrew immediately went after Jesus bringing Simon Peter with him [3].  The two brothers quickly left their fishing nets and followed Christ [4].  Shortly afterwards Jesus began calling others to follow Him and they too left what they were doing to go with the Lord [5]. 

Willing to give up other interests and concerns in order to put Christ first and walk with Him no matter the cost [6], a true disciple is one who is very hungry for more of God, as were Peter and Andrew and the others who heard John's preaching about the Lord Jesus and left all that was dear to them to follow Him.  The Lord's disciples walked closely with Him for over three years during which time He taught them about the Kingdom of God and trained them in the ways of God, then He sent them out to preach the gospel to all men everywhere, instructing them to teach men to follow Him likewise [7].  We also must spend much time with Jesus reading the Scriptures, worshipping God, and learning to pray, then go out and share the good news of the gospel with others, reflecting what has become most important in our lives.

A true disciple too is someone who obeys the Lord's teaching through thick and thin; whose one desire is to grow and mature in the things of God.   Many folk followed Christ at first, but after a while some turned back, because they found the cost too high [8].  When Jesus asked the twelve whether they wanted to go too, Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life", and as he grew spiritually, Peter realised Who Jesus really was: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God", he proclaimed, and if we are to be true disciples of Jesus then we too must not be mistaken about Who He is; like Peter, we must believe that Jesus is "EMMANUEL: God with us" [9].

Sometimes Peter got things wrong.  The night before the Lord was betrayed into the hands of His enemies to be put to death on the cross, Peter fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus dearly needed the support of His disciples, then, worse, denied His Lord three times.  This happened even though just a few hours earlier he had been with Jesus at the Passover meal, and had faithfully promised the Lord that even "though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. ... Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee" [10].

After Jesus' resurrection and appearances to the disciples, we read in John 21 that Peter wanted to go fishing.  Peter had denied knowing Jesus in His hour of need and had lost confidence; he felt great shame that he could have failed His Lord so badly, and believed he was in no state to help lead the fledgling Christian Church.  So did he decide to go back to his former trade?  The disciples went fishing and toiled all night and caught nothing, but when they saw Jesus standing on the shore and obeyed His command to let down their nets again, they caught a record number of fish: 153 in all.  So too, we can do things in our own strength and get nowhere until we learn to obey God's will for us.

It is often said that God is the God of second chances, and we see here Jesus graciously forgiving Peter and restoring him to his former place, using him greatly after Pentecost.  Peter had denied Christ three times, and as they sat around the charcoal fire to eat, Jesus now questions Peter's love for Him three times.  Jesus wanted Peter to confess that he loved Him more than his job, his family, his friends, his pastimes, his interests; and when Peter confessed his love for the Lord, Jesus restored him and re-commissioned him to feed and tend His lambs and sheep.  For the Christian disciple, the Lord Jesus always comes first and He will question our sincerity and love for Him in just the same way as he did with Peter.  He never gives up on us even when we get things badly wrong if we humbly repent and are willing to return to Him, because He can see us as we will one day become, just as He knew how strong and faithful to Him Peter would prove to be.

Christ asks us to tend His flock: the lambs young in the faith, and the sheep - believers for longer but still needing to be taught and guided - until we all "come ... unto a perfect man" (the word 'perfect' here is the same as the word 'mature') and the person God wants us to be [11].  Please note that the sheep belong to Jesus not to us.  They are His sheep; we are just His servants ministering to one another by God's grace and in His strength.  Jesus alone is the Good Shepherd, thus we can't feed His sheep unless we ourselves love the Good Shepherd first and follow Him, as He told Peter to do [12].

After his restoration and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Peter spent the next thirty years spreading the gospel and guiding the young Christian Church.  When he grew old, he followed his Lord even unto the kind of death he suffered: that of crucifixion.  All of the Lord's original disciples - with the exceptions of Judas who hung himself after he betrayed Jesus, and John who died of old age - were put to death as martyrs, and many other faithful disciples down the centuries have died similarly.  May God give us the grace too to be strong and faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, even to be ready to die for Him if we are called so to do.

 

Footnotes

[1]  Luke 1:13b-17.          [2]  Matthew 3:1-12.            [3]  John 1:35-42.          [4]  Matthew 4:19-20.          [5]  Matthew 4:21-22;  John 1:43-44;  Matthew 9:9.          [6]  Luke 14:26-30.          [7]  Matthew 28:18-20;  Mark 16:15.          [8]  John 6:60-66.          [9]  Matthew 16:13-17.           [10]  Matthew 26:17-46.          [11]  Ephesians 4:11-16.          [12]  John 21:19.

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty One   |   Chapter Twenty Three   |   Back to Contents

 

 

Michael Smith 2013