John 21:1-19, 2 Peter 1:3-15
Before I was a Christian, I had a tendency to shoot my mouth off. As a new Christian, I still did this, but I did it while wielding what my wife and I affectionately called my “mighty theological hammer of justice.” I was the “Well, actually” guy of “Well, actually” guys. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. Now, as a slightly less new believer, well… I think I’m getting better at this. Maybe. Hopefully.
When I think back on past conversations (or replay some more recent conversations), I think about the foolish things I’ve said to people when the “Well, actually” guy made a guest appearance. Maybe I didn’t state something quite the way I’d intended. Maybe I was too harsh, too arrogant, or just plain ignorant. To this day, I get anxious being in the same room with certain people, even after asking their forgiveness for the things I’ve said. Forgiveness has been extended, but the sting of guilt remains.
All this is to say, I get Peter. Or at least young Peter. He was a bit too sure of himself. The patron saint of “Well, actually” guys, Peter even went so far as to patiently explain to Jesus Himself why He was wrong—on more than one occasion—only to be proven wrong each time. But that last time, when he swore he would not deny Jesus, only to deny Him three times… I have a hard time imagining him not tearing himself apart in the hours and days that followed his betrayal of Jesus. Scripture says Peter “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62), but I have a feeling that might be an understatement.
It’s easy to look down on Peter because of his brashness, but his story is good news for people like me. Through Peter, I get to see the depths of Jesus’s love, not just for Peter, but for me too. Think about it: In the garden before His arrest, Jesus said to Peter, “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). Jesus knew Peter’s faith would fall short, yet He was already preparing his disciple to move past it.
After His resurrection, Jesus pursued Peter to restore him. He even made Peter breakfast, while asking three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter answered “yes,” and each time Jesus told him to do one thing: care for His sheep, feed them (John 21:15–17). Jesus restored and transformed Peter into a shepherd. He removed Peter’s shame, and affirmed his purpose.
That’s good news, isn’t it?
When I consider Peter’s story, I see my own sin. But his journey also helps me to remember that I don’t need to wallow in shame. Jesus offers restoration to all of us “Well, actually” guys.
He gives all we need for life and godliness as we grow in our knowledge of Him (2 Peter 1:3). He affirms our purpose and points us toward the mission of making disciples. We’re called to build one another up, to supplement our faith with “goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love “ (1:5–7). In all these things, I have every hope that Christ will bear much fruit in our lives to the glory of God.
Written by Aaron Armstrong