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  • Writer's pictureJessie Cheng

on the sweet love that gives second chances (happy Easter!)

Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love... Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

If given a second chance, how would you choose differently? 

In the latter part of John 21, we see how the disciple Peter answers this question for himself. I was moved when reading this passage, as I tried imagining myself in the shoes of Peter, who was sitting so closely to the Lord and friend he had denied knowing just a few weeks prior. 

At this time, Jesus had already died and been resurrected, and the disciples had no doubt that their Lord and Savior was back among them. On this early morning, as the disciples gathered around a fire Jesus prepared and shared a warm breakfast together on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus turned to Peter and asked, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these [disciplines]?” 

Peter answered, “Yes Lord... you know that I love you,” in which Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs.” 

Jesus asked the same question two more times, and by the end, Peter was in pain, because this scenario reminded him directly of his own betrayal of Jesus just weeks before. While Jesus was being interrogated by the high priests following His arrest, Peter had kept warm near a fire outside the high priests’ courtyard. When asked by three of the high priests’ servants if he knew Jesus, Peter - in fear of losing his life or being associated with Christ - immediately denied knowing Him. In doing so, Peter fulfilled Jesus’ prediction during the Last Supper that Peter would deny him three times.

God’s kindness leads us to repentance.  

This time, when Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him, Peter responded with full humility and awareness of his human fragility and imperfection. As they ate their breakfast together around the fire, I imagine Peter must have cringed as he recalled how he'd once exclaimed that he’d follow Jesus and even lay his life down for Him (John 13:37). Peter had been so sure that his devotion to Christ would be unwavering, but when put through the trial, he gave into his fear to protect his own life instead. When Peter re-proclaimed his love for Jesus in John 21, we know Peter was not the ignorant man he used to be. Peter became aware that no human love is as perfect as the love of Christ, which never faltered but endured the fiery wrath of God and permanently paid the punishment for sin. 

How Jesus extended kindness and grace to Peter is something I cannot wrap my simple mind around. Here the perfect Savior was, in front of the disciple who had denied him three times before Jesus suffered the most unjust death alone. This entire interaction between Peter and Jesus speaks of how pure, patient, and boundless Jesus’ love for all of us is. Instead of asking, “Do you regret it?” or “Are you ashamed of yourself?”, Jesus gave Peter the space to profess his love for His Savior again, in front of the other disciples. Of course, Jesus already knew what Peter’s answer was, and in responding, “Feed my sheep,” Jesus offered Peter public restoration and reminds us all that we can still be used as instruments of love, regardless of our past or shortcomings. 

I thought about how it’d take everything inside of me to forgive a close friend who abandons me during my darkest hours. But in His tender love, Jesus went beyond forgiveness: He still included Peter in His plans, gave him the challenge to love, and entrusted in Peter the important task of caring for other believers. In the knowledge of such a sweet love, it begs several questions: what is your perception of Jesus? Do you know that Jesus came to save and to serve, not to condemn and to keep a record of wrongs? Does His kindness lead us to repentance, or are we immobile from our shame? 

If Jesus invites us to follow Him, will we say “yes” and at all costs? 

After Jesus asked three times if Peter loved Him, Jesus foreshadowed the way Peter would die: “You will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” John the Apostle was the author of this eyewitness account, and he noted that Peter would face a kind of death by which he’d glorify God (John 21:18-19). 

I imagine if I were Peter, and Jesus gave me hints as to how I’d die, I would freeze in fear or even burn with resentment. My mind would be tempted to think, “How can Jesus have the audacity to give me such a fate?”, as if Jesus Himself had not done this first by submitting to the will of His Father and voluntarily dying for the sins of the whole world. Jesus followed this up by telling Peter, “Follow me!” 

This was the simple yet difficult invitation: Follow me. It was the same invitation Peter had received when he first encountered Jesus and chosen to give up his life as a fisherman to become a disciple. Here, Peter experienced a full-circle moment as Jesus extended the same invitation, giving Peter a second chance to profess his absolute devotion to Him. 

Peter, in a way that is so understandable and relatable, immediately looked at the Apostle John and asked, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:21). Many times, when we feel a nudge or specific calling from the Lord, it is so easy to deflect the attention onto others and wonder why other believers aren’t being asked to do the same thing. It is not always easy or comfortable following Christ: Jesus never promised an easy walk, but He does promise His presence, peace, and provision. Jesus replied by basically stating that He would give John a different purpose, the same way most of us experience different nudges or callings in our lifetime. 

What we know is that Peter accepted this invitation to follow Jesus, even with the full knowledge that this time, it would mean embracing the cross rather than running away from it again. Face to face with the resurrected Savior, Peter could see now that there was nothing more worthwhile in the world than knowing and following the perfect and loving Christ. Not even death made him afraid; in his reinstated devotion to Jesus, Peter demonstrated that he’d rather lose his life while following Jesus than keep it and deny Christ ever again. This was a moment of redemption for Peter, who was the recipient of Christ’s eager offer to forgive and to restore. 

Jesus was right that Peter would die in absolute devotion to Him. Around thirty-four years later, Peter was crucified, and many ancient writers state that Peter had pleaded to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy of dying in the same posture as his Savior had. Both in life and death, Peter wanted to glorify Jesus, and Peter’s knowledge that following Christ would be more important than anything else gave him the courage to carry this out to the end. Jesus reminds us there is no wrongdoing or shortcoming that could separate us from His sweet love - after all, not even death could defeat Him, and we celebrate this life-giving truth today on Easter. Jesus loves, welcomes, and accepts us as we are. The question then is: will we respond to the invitation to follow Him? 


  1. Where in our lives do we resist the invitation/command to follow Jesus, and what is getting in the way?

  2. Jesus came to love and to save, not to condemn and to destroy. What are your misperceptions of Christ, and how do they impact your relationship with Him?

  3. Jesus' death and resurrection mean He has overcome all - even death. This is why we have the courage to follow Him and know there is nothing more precious that knowing Jesus. What are 1-2 tangible ways to follow and know Christ better?

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