When we have “blown it” spiritually, it’s easy to believe that we are no longer useful to God. However, our heavenly Father longs to restore us so we can love and serve Him. To learn more about God’s grace, we will study one particular conversation between Jesus and the apostle Peter.
A. Grace Defined
According to Holman Bible Dictionary, grace (charis in Greek) is “undeserved acceptance and love received from another.” Charis, which is related to the word for joy or pleasure, originally referred to something delightful or attractive in a person that brought pleasure to others. [Consider our use of charismatic: “He has an engaging, charismatic personality.”] From this, the term came to indicate a favor, gift, or kindness that pleased someone else.
Although there is no record in the New Testament of Jesus using the word charis, His life and teaching exemplify the unmerited favor of God. Consider His encounter with the woman caught in adultery (John 8) and the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15). The Lord also showed grace to Peter, who had denied knowing Him moments before the crucifixion.
B. Grace in the Life of the Apostle Peter
1. The offense.
Begin by reading Matthew 26:31-35, 57-58, and 69-75.
- What makes Peter’s actions particularly embarrassing (Matt. 26:33)?
- Why do you think he denied Christ?
2. The restoration.
After Jesus rose from the dead, He met His disciples on the beach one morning. This was the third occasion He appeared to a group of them (John 21:14).
Matthew Henry’s commentary points out that until this moment, Jesus had yet to comment on Peter’s denial. The disciple might have expected the Lord to say, “Didn’t I tell you that you would be cowardly under pressure?” He probably feared losing his place as an apostle. At the very least, Peter would have expected a firm rebuke, such as he received when he refused to believe Christ had to die (Matt. 16:21-23).
- Read John 21:15-17. What does Jesus do instead of rebuking Peter?
- Peter means “a rock or a stone” and Simon means “reed.” Why did Jesus call him by his old name?
- Why do you think Jesus gave Peter three chances to answer positively that he loved Christ (see Matt. 26:69-75)?
The Greek verbs in this passage reveal a rich meaning to Christ’s apparently repetitive questions. In verses 15 and 16, Jesus uses agapeo, which means to love affectionately, ardently, supremely, fully. It indicates a decision to love as an act of the will. Peter responds every time with phileo, which means to love, to like, to regard, to feel friendship for another. It is emotional or feeling-based.
Adam Clarke’s commentary explains the essence of their conversation. Christ was asking, “Peter, do you love Me ardently and supremely?” but Peter replied, “Lord, I feel an affection for you.I do esteem you.”
- What do Peter’s answers indicate?
In John 21:17, Jesus finally uses the same verb Peter does—phileo. In essence, He asks, “Do you feel an affection for Me and esteem Me?”
- Jesus focuses on Peter’s love for Him. Why is it important that ministers love God (2 Cor. 5:13-14)?
People sometimes regret sin merely because of its painful consequences, such as the embarrassment of getting caught. They might not be sorry for their disobedience.
- What is the evidence that someone has godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:11)?
- Why didn’t Christ reproach Peter for his denial (Matt. 26:75)?
- What does the Savior’s gentle approach to Peter tell you about how God respondsto your heart-felt repentance?
3. The commissioning.
Jesus never mentioned Peter’s transgression directly. Nor did He state, “Your sins are forgiven,” as He did on many other occasions.
- How does Jesus convey that all is forgiven and Peter is restored to service?
In verses 15 and 17, the Lord says to feed His lambs, but in verse 16, He tells Peter to tend His flock. This second word in Greek means to feed, take care of, guide, govern, and defend.
- Feeding the sheep represents teaching them the Word of God. What do you think tending the sheep would include?
- What did Peter later charge other church leaders to do (1 Peter 5:2)?
- What should leaders’ motivation be, according to Peter?
Closing: Do you feel unusable because of past sin? If so, confess your disobedience in genuine repentance, and God will be faithful to forgive you (1 John 1:9). Then ask Him to direct you to the service or work He has for you. Our heavenly Father is the God of second chances.
Prayer: Father, thank You for the amazing grace You extend to us so willingly. Enable us to believe we are truly forgiven. Help us return to loving You and following Your will for our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.