A Disciple After God’s Own HeartJohn 21:1-19Theme: Yes, Lord!In this week’s lessons, Dr. Philip Ryken teaches us about restoration and obedience.
LessonIf ever there was a disciple after God’s own heart, it was Peter. It was Peter, you remember, who was the first to leave his fishing nets and follow Jesus, the first to get out of his boat and walk with Jesus on the water, and the first to confess Christ Jesus as the Christ. In the Gospel of John, chapter 21, verses 1-19, Peter is getting wet for Jesus once again. He is the first to tuck in his robe, the first to jump in the lake, and the first to swim to Jesus on the shore. Can there be any doubt that Peter loves the Lord Jesus? There he stands beside the Galilee, his dripping robes a testimony of his affection for the Lord.
We do not see how we can question his love for Jesus. Yet Jesus does question Peter’s loyalty in public, not once but three times. We read in verse 17: “The third time Jesus said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ ” Peter was hurt, the Scripture says, because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” This question reminds us how very difficult it is to be a disciple, and to keep on being a disciple after God’s own heart.
John is careful to show us that it was because Jesus was questioning Peter a third time that Peter was thrown into grief in his inner being. That is surely because each time Jesus asked Peter, it reminded Peter of the three times that he had denied him. If you turn your Bible back a page or two to the middle of chapter 18, back to another coal fire just a few nights earlier, you can see how miserably Peter had failed to be a disciple after God’s own heart:
“As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, ‘You are not one of his disciples, are you?’
“He denied it, saying, ‘I am not.’
“One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?’
“Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow” (John 18:25-26).
Even as Jesus stood falsely accused by sinful men, even as Jesus was on his way to the cross to die for the sins of his followers, Peter renounced Jesus by denying that he was his disciple. It is no wonder that Peter was hurt by Jesus’ question, for the wounds of his failure to be a disciple after God’s own heart were still painful. But Jesus gave Peter a fresh start, publicly restoring him to ministry in the church. If we find that we are weak or reluctant disciples, cold in our love for Christ, or perhaps that we have never made a decision to follow Jesus, then we need to come and learn with Peter how to become a disciple after God’s own heart.
First, the heart of the disciple is filled with love for Christ above all else. “Do you love me more than these, Peter?” Jesus asked (John 21:15). Jesus’ words, “more than these,” can refer to whatever things you may care to mention. “Do you love me more than these?” Jesus asks this question because it is a true test of whether or not a person is a disciple after God’s own heart.
Do you love Jesus? You may know about Jesus in your mind, you may even obey him with your will, but do you love him with your heart? In spite of all your failings and coldness of heart, deep down, do you love Jesus? The question Jesus asks goes right to the heart of what it means to be a disciple. So this is the first qualification for Christian service: love for Christ.
Now, if Jesus’ question, “Do you truly love me?” is the true test of the Christian disciple, then Peter’s answer is the true mark of a disciple after God’s own heart. Did you note his response? “Yes, Lord,” Peter said. I suppose that these are the only two words that a Christian disciple needs to have in his vocabulary. “Yes, Lord.” To say that the heart of the disciple is filled with love for Christ is to say that the disciple has learned to say, “Yes, Lord” to the love of Christ and to the commands of Christ.
Further StudyRead the accounts of Peter’s calling, confession, determination, and denial: Luke 5:1-11; Matthew 16:13-20; 26:31-35; Luke 22:54-62.