John 21:15-19, 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.” 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.” 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. 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.” (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.”
Have you ever failed at something? I’m sure you have. We all fail from time to time, whether that failure is sin or something more practical at our jobs. It seems that no matter how hard we try, failure is always inevitable. Welcome to the club. You’re not alone.
Peter failed not once, but three times to acknowledge He knew Christ all in one evening! When he realised what he had done, he went away weeping (see Luke 22:54-62). He carried this guilt around with him everywhere he went afterwards. Yet what does Jesus do? Does He rebuke Peter for denying Him because he failed to take heed of His warning beforehand? No. Instead, Jesus cancels out Peter’s guilt. Each time Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him is Jesus canceling out each denial. Jesus already forgave him. Since He knows everything, as Peter confesses, He already knew Peter loves Him. He didn’t ask Peter three times because He didn’t know or forgot. He asked Peter three times as a representation to him that he’s forgiven. His asking Peter these three questions was to say, “Simon Peter, I love you, and I forgive you. I still have work for you to do. Therefore, feed My sheep.” Peter’s journey with Jesus began three years before this, in which Jesus said, “Follow Me.” And now, after His resurrection, He calls Peter again, “Follow Me.”
What guilt do you wrestle with? Are you wrestling with guilt from sin? From how you’ve treated somebody in the not too distant past? What is haunting you? Bring it to Jesus. He knows you love Him and He desires to hear about your guilt so He may take it from you and cancel it out in forgiveness. He died on the cross so we can bring our guilt and our shame to Him and be forgiven, transformed, and renewed. Then He turns us around and tells us to tend His sheep in comfort, and to feed His sheep with the Word of God so they, too, may bring their failures, guilt, and shame to Him and be forgiven and renewed. Never underestimate the forgiving power of Jesus Christ. His ultimate mercy was shown for us on the cross, having borne the sin of the world upon Himself. Thus whatever guilt you have, no matter how great you may think it to be, is not a hard task for Jesus to forgive and work in you towards reformation. No sin is too big for Jesus to take and forgive.