You Can’t Go Back – Part 2

(John 21:15-19)

In my last post we looked at how Peter turned back to his former life as a fisherman after Jesus had been put to death and resurrected. Wether he thought the whole business of Christianity had ended because The Lord was no longer with them or what he thought is not really known. But it was certain that Peter was not thinking clearly and Jesus was about to show him in no uncertain terms that he could not go back and exactly where his future lay.

You can't look back or go back
You can’t look back or go back

As a brief recap, all that lies in the past for a Christian is death. The past was where our former life of sin and worldly passions existed. When we come to Christ we leave those things to enter into Gods kingdom and receive a new life in the spirit. The past is dead and gone for we die to our old life of sin through entering into the death of Jesus Christ by baptism. We now need to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus as Paul wrote in Romans 6:11.

So let us look now at how Jesus turned Peter around and changed his thinking to focus on what lies ahead and not on what he left behind.

Jesus is in Control

First we saw from the previous section that although Peter and those with him had toiled all night fishing, they had caught nothing. However as the day was breaking and Jesus called out to them, he told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat and they would catch some fish. They did and took a huge haul of fish, in total one hundred and fifty three large fish and the nets did not break.

The first thing we see from this is that although the men worked all night, long and hard, they did not get any results until The Lord was in their work. They did not catch a single fish until The Lord showed them where to cast their nets to get fish. What we see here is that The Lord was in control of their work and whether they achieved their goal or not.

This is an important lesson for us too. We are told many times to commit our work to The Lord, and here is clear evidence that He is fully in control of the outcomes.

In Peter’s case, by turning back to his old work as a fisherman he would have no success for it was only in The Lord that they caught fish. It was only when The Lord took control that they managed to catch fish.

Testing Peter

The following conversation that Jesus had with Simon Peter was a test. Consider this as it unfolded.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon 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.”

Now in this first part of the conversation Jesus is asking Peter whether he loves The Lord or not. Note that Jesus said, “Do you love me more than these?” What Jesus is referring to is not whether Peter loved Him more than the other men who were there, for common sense tells us that Peter would not be able to truthfully answer such a question. How can anyone say they love something or someone more than another like minded person? How could Peter truthfully answer that he loved The Lord more than say John who was there with them too? He couldn’t.

The word in Greek that is translated as “these” in English can relate to persons or things. What I believe Jesus was asking Peter is whether he loved The Lord more than catching fish. This was the test for Peter because immediately after The Lord had left them, Peter turned back to fishing. Jesus was asking Peter whether he loved The Lord more than going fishing.

Now this was important because The Lord was commissioning Peter to do a specific work. And it was important that Peter understood what the work was and what The Lord was teaching him.

Jesus wanted Peter to understand that he could not allow fishing or anything else to stand in the way of the work The Lord wanted him to do. Peter had to know without any shadow of a doubt that The Lord had set him apart to become a fisher of MEN, not a fisher of fish.

Three Times

Jesus continued on the conversation in the following way.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon 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.”16 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.”17 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.

Three times Jesus asked Peter the same question, “Do you love me?” And each time Peter responded saying that yes, he loved The Lord. And as we see, Peter was becoming quite grieved and upset because The Lord was questioning him about this matter and whether he really meant it.

And that is exactly what The Lord wanted to do! He wanted to hammer this message into Peter’s brain. He wanted Peter to know he was no longer employed as a fisherman. His job now was working for The Lord and he was to “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep and feed my sheep.”

Feeding the lambs was about teaching the young Christians about the truth of the gospel. Feeding the sheep is about teaching older Christians about how to find the path to maturity in Christ Jesus. And tending the sheep is about being a pastor to the flock of The Lord. Peter had to get this message loud and clear which is why The Lord hammered him three times to make sure he got it. In effect he was saying, “No more fishing! You work for me to teach, guide and take care of my people!”

And clearly Peter got the message for we see the impact today of the work he and the other early apostles and disciples did. He may also have got the message that even if he did go fishing, The Lord controlled whether he caught fish or not and so even if he tried, he might fail anyway!

And just to make sure Peter got the message, Jesus makes the most salient point of all at the end of verse 19 and it is the same point we must take on board too. “Follow me.” Do not follow after the world. Do not look back and follow after your old life. Do not follow teachers of strange and diverse topics that have nothing to do with Christ. Do not follow a path seeking riches and wealth. Follow Jesus. That is where our life is and that is why we cannot go back. Our future is with The Lord and He walks ahead of us, not behind us.

You might also like:

You Cant Go Back Part 1
The Great Commission Part 1
The Great Commission Part 2
The Great Commission
The Risen Christ Appears To The Disciples
The Ascension Of Jesus
Jesus Appears To The Disciples
Baptising The Ethiopian
Seek To Enter By The Narrow Door
Sons Of Light Sons Of Darkness
Walk In The Light
Jesus Is The Light
I Am The True Vine
Abide In Me


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Leave a Reply