I’ve been pondering Jesus’ words to Peter from Luke 22. Before Peter ever drew the thick line in the sand — “even if I have to die, I will never leave you!” — Jesus planned to restore him. He gave Peter the courage to repent before he erred! Are you getting that? Before we mess up, he has already restored us! That’s phenomenal!
The only gospel writer to record Jesus’ interaction with Peter after his resurrection is John. One morning, the disciples met Jesus on the lake shore for a fish fry and Jesus singles out Peter for the following interaction.
15After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.”“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him. 16Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love me?”“Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “you know I love you.”“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus said. 17A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”John 21:15-17
One quickly sees the correspondence of Peter’s three denials with Jesus’ three questions “Peter, do you love me?” But what is the significance of the repetition?
Imagine for a moment how Peter must have rehearsed his denials over and over and over again! He relived the moments around the fires, in the courtyard waiting for news of Jesus’ trial, his vehement denunciation of the One who chose him to be his disciple.
It is said that we form grooves in our brains when we rehearse what we believe to be true — even if it is not actually true. In order to reprogram our brains, we need to change what we think about, what we say to ourselves.
It is the kindness of Jesus that he begins that process with Peter. Three times he denied that he even knew Jesus. Three times Jesus gives him the opportunity to reprogram his belief system. Jesus didn’t need to know if Peter loved him; he already knew. Peter needed to know he still loved Jesus.
Your restoration is already planned, even before you err or repent. If you are willing, Jesus wants to walk you through that process.