Three Times Three
Three Times One
Peter was always the passionate disciple. He was the one to step out onto the surface of the water to join Jesus. He was the one Christ had promised to be “rock” upon whom He would build the future church. It came as no surprise that, when Jesus forecasted His death at the Last Supper, Peter was the one to vow to go with Jesus even into the grave.
What was a surprise was Jesus’ answer to Peter’s bold promise. “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, I say to you the rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times.”
Later, having followed after Jesus into the court of the high priest, Peter was confronted by a doorkeeper. “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?”
“I am not.” One.
Then, warming himself by a fire, Peter was questioned by the crowd, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?”
“I am not.” Two.
Again, only moments later, from another of the high priest’s servants, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?”
"No." Three… and immediately a rooster crowed.
Three Times Two
For three days, Peter was tormented by his denial. Perhaps it had been he who Jesus had talked of – the disciple who would betray Him. Seeing Jesus die from a distance, knowing his personal failure, Peter must have been a mess. A long and painful Saturday followed – a day of doubt and hopelessness.
And then, on Sunday morning, things got really confusing… a desperate, crying, possibly delirious Mary Magdalene burst into the room where Peter and John were sitting and told them that Jesus’ body had been taken from His tomb. After verifying that Jesus’ body had indeed been stolen, Peter found the bottom of the barrel. Everything he had believed in, everything he had worked for had fallen apart. What could he possibly do now?
He went back to the only other life he had known, climbed into a boat and once again became a fisherman. All night, he worked the nets in his boat with James and John. Undoubtedly, he thought back to three years earlier when he had been doing the same thing with the same men. That night, too, they had caught no fish. At the breaking of dawn, he looked over to the shore, some hundred yards away and saw the figure of a man. Three years earlier that had been Jesus standing there. A warm feeling mingled with pain crept into Peter’s heart remembering how Jesus had turned that night and their whole lives around – “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets…” The nets were so full that they nearly sank the boat! “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”
But Jesus was gone. Dead. Perhaps it had all been nothing more than a story, and one too good to be true. Turning his hand back to the nets and finding them again empty, the weight of the moment was apparent. He really was gone for good and life would never be the same. Then, a faint voice from the figure on the shore:
“Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?”
“Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find.”
The nets went out, hands extended to draw them back in. Pulling, pulling, then… resistance. Lots of it. Arms strained, the side of the boat began to pull down toward the water’s edge under the weight of hundreds of fish that had not been there a moment before.
John leaned and spoke somewhat quietly, spoke for Peter to hear. It was partly a question and partly a hope, something from deep in his heart, “It is the Lord.”
Peter sprang around to find Him, a blurry image of a man seen through eyes welling with tears. One hand found his shirt and he barely got it over his head before plunging headfirst into the water…
Three Times Three
After a fish breakfast with the resurrected Christ, Peter sat on the sand, overjoyed to be back in His presence but still pained by his personal failure. That had come back new and raw now that the shock of being with Jesus again had begun to fade.
“Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” Jesus spoke.
Peter answered, his brow furrowed in confusion, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.”
“Feed my lambs.” One.
Jesus’ eyes were kind and clear but Peter could not hold His gaze. He knew. Of course He knew Peter’s failure. The betrayer.
Peter turned to Jesus again.
“…son of John, do you love Me?”
Even more confused, Peter answered, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love You.”
“Feed my sheep.” Two.
Before Peter could even turn away again to consider the meaning of His words, Jesus spoke again.
“Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
Exasperated, Peter quickly responded, “Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You!”
“Feed my sheep.” Three.
Three times Peter denied Jesus. Three days he worried about his failure. And three times Jesus reminded him: I have not given up on you. I love you. The purpose I set out for you to lead My church has not changed. Forget your failure, as I have, and step out into the life I’m calling you into, confident that I will always be with you.
Have you failed God? Have you denied Him? Are you avoiding Him because you are ashamed of your failures, sins, and shortcomings? He has not given up on you. He loves you. He has a purpose for your life if you will step out confidently, knowing He is with you. Dive headfirst into your relationship with God by seeking Him through prayer and through reading His word – it was written for you!