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.
LessonThere were two previous times when Peter tried to say, “No, Lord,” rather than “Yes, Lord.” We find one of them in Matthew 16:21-23 when Peter refused to believe that Christ had to suffer and die. At that time Peter did not have in mind the things of God. “Never, Lord!” are two words that a disciple can never utter. They are self-contradictory. If Peter is saying no to Jesus, then he is not really following Jesus as Lord at all.
The second incident occurs in John, chapter 13. The disciples were in the upper room about to celebrate the Passover together, and Jesus went around to wash his disciples’ feet. “He came to Simon Peter who said to him, ‘Lord! Are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus replied, ‘You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘No,’ said Peter, ‘you shall never wash my feet.’ ” (John 13:6-8).
There he goes again: “Lord, no!” First Peter tried to reject the suffering, serving, dying-to-save ministry of Jesus, and then in the upper room he tried to prevent Jesus from exercising that cleansing ministry in his own life. He was trapped by his own self-contradiction, trying to say the two words a disciple can never say, “No, Lord.” Whenever we say no to Jesus, he is no longer our Lord. And whenever we say no to the commands of Christ, we are no longer disciples after God’s own heart. Are there ways in which you are saying, “No, Lord” right now? Are you saying, “No, Lord, I won’t give up that sin just yet” or “No, Lord, I’m too timid to witness for you”? Don’t you see that you cannot say “No, Lord” and remain a disciple after God’s own heart?
But Peter has become a disciple after God’s own heart, and we know that he has done so because he has learned how to say those only two words a disciple of the Lord Jesus needs to know how to say: “Yes, Lord!” The “No, Lord” of the spiritual infant has been replaced with the “Yes, Lord” of the spiritual giant. “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Peter answered, “Yes, Lord.” Again Jesus asked, “Do you truly love me?” Peter again replied,
“Yes, Lord.” To become a disciple after God’s own heart is to say “Yes, Lord” to the love of Christ.
Now, I suppose that if we were reading this Gospel for the first time, we might be tempted to tell Jesus to choose some new disciples. Those he has haven’t seemed very loyal, have they? But see how patient our Lord is with failed disciples. See how he gives his disciples a chance to reaffirm their love for him. Jesus knows more deeply and more powerfully than anyone else how sinful his disciples are, and how undependable they can be for service in his kingdom.
Remember that the great events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday have occurred just before the events in this passage. When Jesus stood beside the Sea of Galilee with Peter, he stood there as the risen Savior who has conquered sin and death on the cross and in his resurrection. The wounds that Jesus bore for Peter’s sins and for the sins of all his disciples are only just healed. But because of all that he has suffered for Peter’s sake, Jesus accepts Peter back into fellowship and back into the ministry of discipleship. We know this by his command in chapter 21, verse 19: “Follow me.”
What would that command remind Peter of? Surely, Jesus is taking Peter back to the day when he first became a disciple–when he first said to him, “Follow me.” Peter had first answered, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus is showing Peter that all has been forgiven, that all his failing has not disqualified him, that he can make a fresh start as a disciple. Jesus has died for Peter’s sins, washing them all away. So he calls Peter to begin all over again using the first instructions he ever gave him: “Follow me.” And with that command comes the mighty strength of the Lord himself to equip Peter in every way to follow him.
What comfort this is for those of us who are, we must admit, failed disciples time and time again. Jesus loves his disciples with an unbreakable love. He is determined that his followers will become disciples after his own heart. You may sin, but he will forgive you. You may fall away, but he will pick you back up again. You may even deny him, but he will claim you for his own. You may stand back, never having followed Jesus before, but still he will say, “Follow me,” and enable you to follow. The heart of the disciple is filled with love for Christ because he is loved by Christ with this unbreakable love.
Further StudyRead Matthew 16:21-28. What high point in Peter’s life immediately precedes this low point?