I don’t know whether this is true or not, because I have no knowledge of the legal profession, but I’ve seen this on law shows and movies. When one agrees to a guilty plea, typically resulting in a lesser punishment, they must admit their guilt in open court.
In my previous post I wrote about how Jesus emphasized his forgiving his followers for abandoning him. It was sort of a blanket amnesty. But here in the final chapter of John’s gospel, we see the importance of owning up to our guilt.
John 21:15-17 (ESV)
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.”
Jesus’ questioning of Peter’s devotion coincides with Peter’s three denials. I think it was Jesus’ way of addressing Peter’s sin and showing him mercy.
Abandoning a friend too
Something I didn’t write about in my post on chapter 18 was how Peter not only denied Jesus but his fellow disciple John as well. In John 18:15, we see that John had followed Jesus into the high priest’s court, where a sham of a trial was held. If you look further in that passage, you’ll see what appears to be John summoning Peter to join him, which resulted in the first of Peter’s denials.
So back on the shore where Jesus is offering specific grace for Peter’s specific sin, we find John as well, who would have been privy to the conversation. He sees Jesus not only accept Peter back into the fold, as it were, but reinstate him to be the leader of the church, to pastor the flock.
Sometimes it’s difficult for me to forgive someone that God has forgiven. I want to hold on to the hurt and in some ways make them pay for their sin, not content to allow God to be the only judge. But the truth is that Jesus already paid for their sin, and he requires us to let them off the hook. Before Jesus surrendered himself to be killed at the hands of the Jews and the Romans, he prayed for unity among his followers. The unity he requested must be marked by forgiveness and grace.
The 1st century pastor’s closing words
One last thing to close out this long series, which I hope has been as beneficial for you as it has been for me. John closes his account with these final words:
John 21:24-25 (ESV)
24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
I personally have greatly appreciated reading and pondering John’s gospel again. I love how he closes here, acknowledging that he’d recorded only a small amount of what happened. (Similarly, I haven’t shared everything from my journal, everything God spoke to my heart.) I would love to know more of what John experienced. Someday we’ll meet him and the others and could get to ask, “So what else happened?”
I think John would agree to give further testimony, but I also have a hunch he might return the question: “So tell me what God did through and among you?”