15 So 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, “Tend (feed) My lambs.” 16 He *said to him again 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, “Shepherd (protect) My sheep.” 17 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus *said to him, “Tend (feed) My sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!”
God redeems our brokenness. This passage deals with the redemption of Peter and his sinfulness via denial of knowing Christ…at least that’s what the scholars say. It’s easy to match up the 3 denials of Peter with the 3 affirmations of Peter here. I’m not denying that this is what was going on, but rather that the scripture doesn’t explicitly say so (even though it is what we conclude). Why didn’t John put this in there? One reason I believe is that it was an intimate exchange between Peter and Jesus. John was just a spectator (verse 20 tells us John was walking behind them during all this). The greater reason I believe this was not brought up is because Peter’s sinfulness was not the point! Jesus already knew that Peter was going to deny Him. He had already forgiven Peter for his actions.
Too often we think we have to “work off” our misdeeds. Our “work” is not to make up for something or to build up some sort of annuity to “cash in” on when we sin. Certainly there are consequences for our sins; every action has an opposite and equal reaction. However, we don’t have to “make up” for our sins because Jesus already did! It’s the freedom of the cross. This is called grace.
In Philippians 3:13, Paul says, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it (referring to perfection or spiritual maturity) yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead…” Paul here is reflecting exactly what is happening in this exchange between Jesus and Peter. Jesus isn’t talking about the past (good or bad), rather He is looking forward and showing Peter what He sees. Not only does He talk about Peter being a pastor and teacher, but also that he will die and unpleasant death. He will be killed by others because of his love for Jesus. What does Jesus say? “Follow me!”
Have you lost sight of God’s redeeming love? Are you trying to earn penance by working off the debt of your sin? You can’t! For one, nothing we bring to the table is good or pure enough and secondly…it’s already been paid! How can you pay a debt that is already paid? Stop trying to utilize a system that is obsolete and fruitless. Stop trying to work off a debt that is already paid. God paid the price for our sinfulness so we no longer have to worry about working it off, but so that we can use that time and effort instead to have a relationship with Him.