The Restoration of Peter

Icebreakers

Use one of the following questions to open up discussion.  (If you have first-time guests, be sure to have people give their names as they answer the icebreaker question.)

  1. What do you expect Jesus to say when you confess?
  2. What does He say?

Our Study:  The Restoration of Peter

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”

Luke 13:34

“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. ”

Isaiah 42:3

Objectives

Small group members and guests will:

  1. Know God’s heart for gentle restoration as evidenced by Peter
  2. Ask Jesus about the root cause of our brokenness
  3. Experience the freedom of repentance, forgiveness, and the truth through the Holy Spirit

Study

Read John 21:15-22

15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Why three times?

Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times the night of His betrayal, even going so far as to swear an oath and curse.  Upon realizing what he did he left and wept bitterly.  Jesus both meets and restores Peter in identical ways He had before: a day of fruitless fishing ends when Jesus commands Peter to let down his nets which results in the disciples catching an impossible number of fish (Luke 5:1-11); just as Peter, while standing over burning coals, denied Jesus three times so shall he be given a chance, over burning coals, to confess his love for Him.

Why ask about the disciple whom Jesus loved?

The Gospel of John consistently refers to one of the disciples as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.  This is definitely the Apostle John.  John was the last of the original twelve disciples to die and the only one to die of old age (rather than martyrdom), hence the rumor that spread that he would never die.  John dismisses this rumor by pointing out the rhetorical effect of the statement – if Jesus wants someone to live forever, what is it to you?  Not that this person would live forever, but if they did how would it affect you?

In Acts we see Herod imprison both James and Peter; James is executed while Peter with the help of an angel has a divine jailbreak.  Couldn’t God have saved James?  Yes.  Did He?  No.  Asking why is the wrong question;  Paul knows that “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Romans 14:8).  “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another” (Romans 14:13)

How is Peter different from Judas?

Application

How did the story of the betrayal get in the Bible? There were not many witnesses to Peter’s three-fold denial of Jesus; who would have told the gospel writers about it with such vividness?  The stories even have dialog – it must have been someone who witnessed the exchanges.  I believe we are left to conclude that Peter himself told the gospel writers what happened.  Relating the story about how the head of the church denied God three times is not a great idea if you are trying to convince them to join your church.  In short, Peter owned up to what he did.  Evil cannot be dealt with by ignoring it – we all must acknowledge our past actions no matter how shameful or wicked they are.

What do you expect God to say to you when you confess these things?  Do you imagine Him to angrily shout, “You’re damn right!” or perhaps sternly reprimand you for such actions?  Those conceptions of God are profoundly unbiblical; the images used are that of God as a father rejoicing of the return of his son from death (Luke 15:11-32), God as a hen who protects her children under her wings (Luke 13:34), and God as a husband of an adulterous pleading for her return (Hosea).  While we can detect some distress in Peter’s final exchange with Jesus, Jesus did not mortally wound Peter but gently restored him to faith.  That very same God is patiently waiting to show us love.

Prayer

  1. Thank God for sending His Son, that we have His righteousness in place of ours, that our judgment has been transfered to Him, and that He is Judge in place of us.  If God is for us, who can stand against us?
  2. Confess that we have not loved God with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul, and all of our strength.  Ask God to highlight areas of struggle and continued sin that we might repent and seek Him.
  3. Ask God to reveal one lie that you believe; ask Him to replace that with His truth.
  4. Break into smaller groups and pray for each other individually, especially for those who have painful memories come to mind.  If some sinful action was committed, have them verbally repent and speak forgiveness over them.  Invite Jesus into that memory – where was He when this was happening?  Finally, invite the Holy Spirit to fill up the previously broken and hurt areas and boldly proclaim that Satan has no claim over this area of this person’s life anymore.
  5. Rinse and repeat.
  6. If someone is significantly healed, let them share a small testimony with the group to “raise an Ebenezer”
  7. Close with Romans 16:25-27:

    “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

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