Sabbath, August 5, 2017

“Another lesson Christ had to give, relating especially to Peter. Peter’s denial of his Lord had been in shameful contrast to his former professions of loyalty. He had dishonored Christ, and had incurred the distrust of his brethren. They thought he would not be allowed to take his former position among them, and he himself felt that he had forfeited his trust. Before being called to take up again his apostolic work, he must before them all give evidence of his repentance. Without this, his sin, though repented of, might have destroyed his influence as a minister of Christ. The Saviour gave him opportunity to regain the confidence of his brethren, and, so far as possible, to remove the reproach he had brought upon the gospel.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 811.

Clarification and restoration

1. On this occasion, what did Jesus ask Peter? What should one understand from His question and the command that He gave to the disciple? 

John 21:15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 

“While Christ and the disciples were eating together by the seaside, the Saviour said to Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?’ referring to his brethren. Peter had once declared, ‘Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended.’ Matthew 26:33. But he now put a truer estimate upon himself. ‘Yea, Lord,’ he said, ‘Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ There is no vehement assurance that his love is greater than that of his brethren. He does not express his own opinion of his devotion. To Him who can read all the motives of the heart he appeals to judge as to his sincerity–‘Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ And Jesus bids him, ‘Feed My lambs.’ ” –The Desire of Ages, p. 811.

2. When Jesus asked Peter the same question a second time, what did he answer? Was Jesus perhaps reprimanding the disciple for his triple de-nial? What had happened immediately after Peter denied his Lord?

John 21:16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 

Luke 22:61, 62 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. 62And Peter went out, and wept bitterly. 

“This time He did not ask Peter whether he loved Him better than did his brethren. The second response was like the first, free from extravagant assurance: ‘Yea, Lord; Thou knowest that I love Thee.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.’ ” –The Desire of Ages, p. 812.

3. Why did Jesus repeat the same question three times? What deep change did the answers of this impulsive disciple show?

John 21:17, first part He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? 

“Three times Peter had openly denied his Lord, and three times Jesus drew from him the assurance of his love and loyalty…. Before the assembled disciples Jesus revealed the depth of Peter’s repentance, and showed how thoroughly humbled was the once boasting disciple.

“Peter was naturally forward and impulsive, and Satan had taken advantage of these characteristics to overthrow him. Just before the fall of Peter, Jesus had said to him, ‘Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.’ Luke 22:31, 32. That time had now come, and the transformation in Peter was evident. The close, testing questions of the Lord had not called out one forward, self-sufficient reply; and because of his humiliation and repentance, Peter was better prepared than ever before to act as shepherd to the flock.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 812.

His life’s mission

4. What mission did Jesus entrust to Peter after the disciple’s deep repentance and spiritual transformation? What transformation qualified him to carry out this service?

John 21:17, last part And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 

“The first work that Christ entrusted to Peter on restoring him to the ministry was to feed the lambs. This was a work in which Peter had little experience. It would require great care and tenderness, much patience and perseverance…. Heretofore Peter had not been fitted to do this, or even to understand its importance. But this was the work which Jesus now called upon him to do. For this work his own experience of suffering and repentance had prepared him.

“Before his fall, Peter was always speaking unadvisedly, from the impulse of the moment…. But the converted Peter was very different. He retained his former fervor, but the grace of Christ regulated his zeal. He was no longer impetuous, self-confident, and self-exalted, but calm, self-possessed, and teachable. He could then feed the lambs as well as the sheep of Christ’s flock.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 812, 815.

An essential requirement

5. What is one of the essential qualifications for being a shepherd of the Lord’s flock? What final perspective did the Lord make Peter see so that he would be prepared to serve the Master?

John 21:18, 19 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me. 

 “He mentioned only one condition of discipleship and service. ‘Lovest thou Me?’ He said. This is the essential qualification. Though Peter might possess every other, yet without the love of Christ he could not be a faithful shepherd over the Lord’s flock. Knowledge, benevolence, eloquence, gratitude, and zeal are all aids in the good work; but without the love of Jesus in the heart, the work of the Christian minister is a failure.

“Before His death, Jesus had said to him, ‘Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.’ To this Peter had replied, ‘Lord, why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thy sake.’ John 13:36, 37…. Peter had failed when the test came, but again he was to have opportunity to prove his love for Christ. That he might be strengthened for the final test of his faith, the Saviour opened to him his future. He told him that after living a life of usefulness, when age was telling upon his strength, he would indeed follow his Lord.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 815.

Carrying the gospel to martyrdom 

6. When Peter asked about the future of a fellow disciple, what did Jesus reply? Is the instruction to follow Him only for Peter or for every one of us?

John 21:20-22 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? 21Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? 22Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. 

“Now he [Peter] was prepared to share in his Lord’s mission of sacrifice. When at last brought to the cross, he was, at his own request, crucified with his head downward. He thought it too great an honor to suffer in the same way as his Master did. 

“To Peter the words ‘Follow Me’ were full of instruction…. Do not run ahead of Me. Then you will not have the hosts of Satan to meet alone. Let Me go before you, and you will not be overcome by the enemy….

“How many today are like Peter! They are interested in the affairs of others, and anxious to know their duty, while they are in danger of neglecting their own. It is our work to look to Christ and follow Him. We shall see mistakes in the lives of others…. But in Christ we shall find perfection. Beholding Him, we shall become transformed.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 815, 816.

7. How long did Peter carry out the gospel mission that the Lord entrusted to him? To whom did he direct the gaze of others who, like him, were church elders?

1 Peter 5:1-4 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock. 4And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

“Peter had been restored to his apostleship, but the honor and authority he received from Christ had not given him supremacy over his brethren…. Peter was not honored as the head of the church…. The lesson which Christ had taught him by the Sea of Galilee Peter carried with him throughout his life.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 817.

“Now, when his once active form was bowed with the burden of years and labors, he could write, ‘Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.’… 

“Pastors are needed–faithful shepherds–who will not flatter God’s people, nor treat them harshly, but who will feed them with the bread of life–men who in their lives feel daily the converting power of the Holy Spirit and who cherish a strong, unselfish love toward those for whom they labor.” –The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 525, 526.

For additional study

“Here is given a lesson for all Christ’s followers. The gospel makes no compromise with evil. It cannot excuse sin. Secret sins are to be confessed in secret to God; but, for open sin, open confession is required. The reproach of the disciple’s sin is cast upon Christ. It causes Satan to triumph, and wavering souls to stumble. By giving proof of repentance, the disciple, so far as lies in his power, is to remove this reproach.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 811.