One of the most amazing and interesting stories in the Bible is the event of Jesus interacting with Peter after he had been raised from the dead. In John 21 we are told that Jesus, post-resurrection, appeared to seven of his disciples, Peter included, by the sea of Tiberias. And while they are eating a breakfast of fish and bread on the shore, cooked over a charcoal fire, Jesus turns and says to 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’” (vv.15-17). Why does Jesus do this? Most understand this to be related to Peter denying Jesus three times on the night of his betrayal and arrest (John 18). Still, this being the case, why does Jesus ask Peter three times if he loves him? We are told in Luke 22:61-62 that after Peter denied Jesus for the third time and then heard the rooster crow, he “remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” Undoubtedly, Peter was struggling from guilt and possibly a lack of salvation assurance and his level of commitment and love for Christ. Thus, when Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him, it is not because Jesus did not know the answer to the question. And he does not ask Peter two more times because he is questioning Peter’s honesty. Jesus, being God, knew what was in Peter’s heart (see John 2:24-25). Jesus was not doubting what was in Peter’s heart, but Peter was. Thus, Jesus wanting to restore and heal Peter’s brokenness, knew that Peter needed to hear it for himself. He needed to confess his love and devotion to Christ for each time he had denied him. Here is an important lesson in the power and value of confession. Not just confessing our sins privately in our minds to God but confessing our sins to others when we sin against them and confessing our sins to each other as a means of mutual accountability. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” This does not mean we need to find a person to whom we confess all our sins on a regular basis. We are not talking about going to confessional here. It does mean confessing grievous sins we are struggling with to a trusted friend can be used by God as a means of grace, restoration, and encouragement. Since Peter’s sin was a private sin committed against Christ, Jesus did not have him confess his sin publicly. But he did have him confess his love for Christ as a means of grace, restoration, and encouragement. There is power in confession.
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