March 21

Restored to Serve, Part 4

John 21:18-19a Most assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you {Peter], when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish. This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God.

In his previous three restorative questions to Peter, Jesus has re-opened a wound and demonstrated his full forgiveness for Peter’s denials, as well as his sins of pride. Then He gives him a look at himself throughout his entire life, which again changed Peter’s perspective.

Up until now, Peter’s knowledge that Jesus knew everything was painful to him; Jesus knew what Peter did, and the most Peter could hope for was that Jesus must therefore know how little or much Peter loved Him. The three questions focused Peter on his sin, and he saw Jesus’ knowledge as tinged with regret.

So Jesus finishes this talk with a prophetic word of how Peter was going to die. But there is much more here than a simple look into the future. This was a promise that Peter was indeed going to be restored to service, and that he was going to serve and glorify the Lord the rest of his life. The Lord’s omniscience was turned from something shaded in sadness to a joyful light of promise.

To finally complete the work of restoration, Jesus simply says, “Follow Me.” As “Simon, son of Jonah” was a phrase that reminded Peter of his past in a way that probably hurt, “Follow Me” was the original phrase to the disciples in Matthew 4 and Luke 5. Saying “Follow me,” was also a way of saying, “We’re done with this now. Turn your regret into service, leave your sadness, pick up your call and walk with Me again.”

Peter couldn’t turn back to the time before his denials, or his prideful attitudes. But Jesus was not content to simply say that Peter was forgiven. Peter needed to know that He was deeply known by the Lord and still forgiven for everything. Then he needed to be reaffirmed in his calling. He also learned that what the Lord knew could be humbling at first, even embarrassing, but was ultimately empowering and encouraging.

If the last thing you heard from the Lord is “I forgive you” and nothing more, go back and continue the conversation. He has much more to say and do. His words and touch bring us to the present, and point us toward the future. Notice that He may want to go very deep, as He did with Peter, and we need to allow Him that action. But remember that He doesn’t intend to leave us broken and forgiven, but forgiven, reinstated, and encouraged. That may take time and involve the wisdom of others, but restoring to serve is the heart of God.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that You have the heart to restore fully. Help me to hear everything you want to say to me when I fall. May your work with Peter be a constant encouragement to go as deep as You want so that Your restoration may be as complete as You desire.

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