Yesterday at Faith Church we talked about what it feels like when we have been betrayed or denied. We also talked about how easy it is, like Jesus’ disciples Judas and Peter, to betray or deny God. Imagine how those two guys felt when the realization of their betrayal and denial of Jesus finally broke over them.
We are told that Peter had godly sorrow that led to repentance. After Peter denied Jesus the third time, just as Jesus said he would, Luke tells us that Peter and Jesus were in close enough proximity to one another that Jesus turned and looked right at Peter. Imagine being Jesus at that moment. Heartbroken. Imagine being Peter. Sick to the stomach at his failure, Luke tells us Peter goes away sobbing bitter tears.
Judas had a different reaction. We have to go to Matthew’s story of Jesus’ life to learn about it. In Matthew 27:3-5 we read: “When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ And he went out and hanged himself.”
Peter wept, and Judas admitted his sin.
But there is a difference in the nature of their actions. Judas acted with premeditation. Peter did not. Judas took time to plan out his betrayal, sought out the religious leaders, received payment, set up the arrest. Peter did nothing like this. Peter’s denial was not premeditated or proactive. Instead it was reactive. It was an unplanned act, a terrible choice in the midst of a horrible situation.
Judas’ response of suicide showed he had no hope. Why would he have no hope? Shouldn’t he have known Jesus and the grace, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus? Yes, he should have. But he didn’t, and that is revealing. Judas didn’t really know Jesus. Peter did.
Peter’s response is very different. He is broken, sorrowful.
Have you ever been like Peter, caught by the proverbial crow of the rooster, reminding you of your failure?
2 Corinthians 7:10 says it perfectly:
We can be sorry we got caught. We can be sorry because we don’t want consequences for our actions. When we examine our motives, we can learn that they are really messed up.
It is hard to be sorry with a godly sorrow that leads to repentance. All of us have messed up. What does it mean to be restored? To find restoration we can examine Peter’s story: What was it about Peter that led him to make a rebound?
This past Sunday was Pentecost Sunday. Do you remember what happened on Pentecost Sunday?
We read about it in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit first came to fill the disciples, while they were waiting in Jerusalem, waiting for what to do next. The Spirit comes and they start preaching in other languages. One guy takes the lead in the preaching. One guy is particularly bold.
Guess who it was? Peter.
Think about the timing. The events of Pentecost, where Peter is so bold, are only about a month and a half after the events of his denial of Jesus. A month and a half!
What we saw in Luke 22 is that Peter is a broken man. He has just denied Jesus, three times, and Jesus knew it, and Peter runs out weeping bitterly.
Now a month and a half later he is preaching boldly about Jesus.
What gives? How did that turnaround happen?
To find out we turn to John 21:15-17, a story that does not appear in Luke.
After his resurrection, the disciples went back to their jobs. They were fisherman, and they needed to make some money, feed their families, and so they went fishing. Jesus found them, made a fire on the beach, waiting for the disciples to return so they could eat together. Though he had resurrected, he was about to return to his Father and turn the mission of his Kingdom over to them. He had some unfinished business with them to care for. The disciples return to shore, and Jesus pulls Peter aside and says “Do you love me?”
It is more precise in the original language, Koine Greek, which has a variety of words, all of which we translate with one English word: “love.”
Jesus starts in verse 15 asking Peter “Do you agape me?” Agape is perfect love. This is the love that is used to describe God’s love, or to describe the love we should have for one another, as stated famously in 1 Corinthians 13.
Peter responds “Lord, you know that I phileo you.” Phileo is brotherly love, very relational. Phila-Delphia is the City of Brotherly love.
In a way, then, while Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, Peter answers very relationally, saying he has brotherly love for Jesus.
So Jesus says “Feed my lambs.” It might sound odd to us, this shepherd language. But Jesus knows that Peter felt terrible about denying Jesus, that Peter would be wondering if he was no longer acceptable to Jesus. Perhaps Peter should forfeit his position in the inner circle of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Jesus, who had once said to Peter “on you I will build my church”, now reinstates him: “Feed my sheep.”
Then surprisingly, Jesus asks him again, “Do you agape me?”, and Peter repeats “You know I phileo you”. You can see Peter internally, and maybe in body language on his face, wondering, “Why is he asking me again?” You and I know how it feels when our spouse or loved one asks, “Do you love me?” and we respond “Of course I love you!” And then they ask again, “But really, do you really love me?” At this second questioning, we can start to get offended, thinking that they shouldn’t have to ask a second time! Do they not believe us? Why would they have any reason to doubt? Peter is starting to feel this, to think these thoughts.
So Jesus says again “Take care of my sheep.” Again, reinstating Peter.
Imagine the shock as Jesus now asks Peter a third time, “Do you love me?” But this time Jesus has used the word “phileo”. Now Jesus is getting very personal.
John tells us in the middle of verse 17 that Peter is hurt. As any of us would be when we are asked to repeat ourselves a third time. But Peter now says a third time, “You know that I phileo you.”
And Jesus says a third time, “Feed my sheep.”
Do you see what Jesus has done? Each of Peter’s three denials have now been overturned by three “I love yous”, and by Jesus’ three reinstatements of Peter to “feed his sheep.”
Peter is restored.
Jesus is in the business off restoration. Do you need to be restored? If you have denied him, if you have disobeyed him, if you have been ashamed of him, you can be restored!
He loves you with Agape and Phileo, and he wants to restore you.
So come to him, like Peter, with a heart, mind and will that show your godly sorrow, and he will restore you.
That’s how Peter could preach a powerful sermon just a few weeks later. He was restored. And he fed Jesus’ sheep.
If you have betrayed Jesus, if you have denied him, know that he loves you. Let him restore you. Then feed his sheep.