Repentance is a Process (The Example of Peter)

Repentance is a Process
(The Example of Peter), Part II

We follow Peter's life in John 21:

  1. John 21:1-3,14
  2. After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself.
  3. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
  4. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a-fishing.
    ...
  5. This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.

Peter and the others had seen Jesus alive again from the dead two times before this (after his resurrection). How had they reacted to this remarkable information? Peter said, "I go a-fishing". Peter had returned to his former occupation. Do we ever backslide? You bet we do.

But after yet one more miracle (the multitude of fish), when he realized was at the hands of Jesus, "girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea" (John 21:7).

Consider the significance of this event. Peter realized that he was naked (without a covering for his sin). He put his fisher's coat back on. (Rededicated to being a fisher of men?) He cast himself into the sea, ready to get back to the Lord's work – fishing in the sea of humanity.

But even after this new resolve – this new commitment – there were still reservations; the process of repentance was still not complete. Remember that Jesus had said to him, "when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren" (Luke 22:32). Jesus reminded Peter of this charge:

  1. John 21:15
  2. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (agape) thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. (nourish)

Jesus tried again – was Peter ready? Was his conversion complete?

  1. John 21:16
  2. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (agape) thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (tend, guide, defend)
Peter was still holding back. Do we?
  1. John 21:17
  2. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest (phileo) thou me? (note the change to phileo ) Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love (phileo) thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (nourish)

It seems incredible, but Peter was still not able to completely commit to more than phileo: an affection for, a friendship with the Lord. How strong is our love – remember the greatest commandment? "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment" (Mark 12:30). How do we do?

Jesus concluded his remarks to Peter on this occasion by indicating that the day would come when Peter would be ready to be offered:

  1. John 21:18-19
  2. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
  3. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

But even this prophesy was not enough to complete his conversion, let alone make him ready for martyrdom. Peter still displayed more of those human feelings, such as envy (who will be the greatest):

  1. John 21:20-21
  2. Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
  3. Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?

'What about John? If i have to suffer and die for my faith, what about him – why shouldn't he be chosen for this role instead? After all you love him more than me.'

  1. John 21:22
  2. Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.

A simple rebuke – and a final instruction – follow thou me (wherever that may lead, whatever that may involve).

THIS BRETHREN IS OUR CHALLENGE – OUR COMMISSION. When we are able to walk with him – to follow him in his ways – and not continuing in our own, then we will be prepared (if necessary) to die with him. Not just to be able to say the words, as Peter had thought that he could do, but in deed and in truth. Not to die as a martyr, but to die daily (I Corinthians 15:31). To mortify our members on earth (Collosians 3:5). To completely and finally put to death the old man (Collosians 3:9) and to follow him completely in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

Peter's Example for Us

When we look at Peter, and consider his example, we realize that his conversion was something that did not happen overnight. He spent a lifetime, filled with many learning experiences, in the PROCESS OF REPENTANCE.

The Bible record demonstrates that Peter did become a mature elder, and that he learned how to "feed the sheep". His Epistles are evidence of his dedication in his latter years.

Peter's example should not be one that would discourage us. We should look at Peter and realize that we have a friend. Peter was a disciple that we can identify with. He was weak, and he struggled with his own natural desires to gratify the flesh, and to be one of the greatest among the disciples.

As we struggle with our own weakness, remember that Peter kept learning. He may have stumbled, but he did not turn back. He pressed forward to his objective – to be able to fulfill the commission that he had been given to strengthen his brethren.

"Not My Will"

As we ponder our own progress on the road to repentance, we would do well to set our own objectives after the example of Christ. Conversion is a process that will only be achieved in our own lives, when we are able to stand before our greatest challenge as Jesus did. To be able to sincerely and completely forsake our own needs, and to be able to say "not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).


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