Jesus & Peter

Scripture: John 13:33-38 & 21:15-19

Title: Jesus and Peter – before & after


  • Introduction
  • Jesus & Peter before – John 13:33-38
  • Jesus & Peter after – John 21:15-19
  • Conclusion


We are in the season of Easter at the moment

–         Easter is a time when we tend to eat more chocolate than usual

–         Consequently we may find ourselves in different shape before and after


Our message today focuses on the relationship between Jesus & Peter – both before the cross and after the resurrection

–         Before Good Friday Peter may have thought his faith was fit and trim

–         But after the cross he had a more realistic perspective


Please turn with me to the gospel of John chapter 13 – page 137 toward the back of your pew Bibles

–         The night before his suffering and death Jesus shared a meal with his disciples. He washed their feet, he prayed for them and he tried to prepare them for what was about to happen

–         From John chapter 13, verse 33, Jesus says…


My children, I shall not be with you very much longer. You will look for me; but I tell you now what I told the Jewish authorities, “You cannot go where I am going.’ And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

“Where are you going, Lord?” Simon Peter asked him.

“You cannot follow me now where I am going,” answered Jesus; “but later you will follow me.”

“Lord, why can’t I follow you now?” asked Peter. “I am ready to die for you!”

Jesus answered, “Are you really ready to die for me? I am telling you the truth: before the rooster crows you will say three times that you do not know me.


May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this reading


Jesus & Peter before:

On the wall here is a diagram of the Johari window – many of you would have seen this (or something like it) before

–         The Johari window is a technique created by two psychologists in 1955

  • – In the exercise, you pick a number of adjectives from a list, choosing ones you feel describe your own personality.
  • – Your peers then get the same list, and each picks an equal number of adjectives that they think describe you. [1]
  • – Some of the adjectives include words like: bold, brave, cheerful, extroverted, introverted, calm, trustworthy, loving and so on


Adjectives picked by both you and your peers go in the ‘open’ box

  • – These things are common knowledge to you and to others
  • – Adjectives you chose for yourself but not chosen by others go in the ‘hidden’ box – things you know about you that others don’t
  • – And adjectives others choose for you but you didn’t choose go in the ‘blind’ box – things others can see that you can’t
  • – The fourth ‘unknown’ box is the sub-conscious part of us that neither ourselves nor others see
  • – We might say the unknown is known only to God


The purpose of the Johari window is to help people better understand their relationship with themselves and others

–         Sometimes there is a gap between how we perceive ourselves and how others experience us – a gap between our ideal self and our real self

–         This could be because we don’t know ourselves that well

–         Or it could be that others have misunderstood us

–         Often it’s a mixture of both


If you asked Peter to do the Yohari window exercise before & after Good Friday I expect he would have come out with a very different result

–         Before the cross Peter thinks of himself as brave and loyal, a hero willing to lay down his life to protect Jesus from the authorities

–         But on this occasion at least there is a significant gap between Peter’s ideal self and his real self

–         After the experience of the cross Peter is more circumspect

–         Only Jesus sees all four windows


Returning to our reading from John 13, Jesus tells his disciples two things…

–         Firstly, they cannot go where he is about to go – meaning they can’t go to the cross as he is about to go to the cross (at least not yet)

–         And secondly, they must love one another


Jesus says these two things to help his disciples

–         Being told they can’t go to the cross with him lets them off the hook

–         It tells them this is God’s purpose for Jesus, so they don’t have to feel responsible for this, they don’t need to try and protect Jesus or prevent it from happening – It’s not in their power to do anything about this


Having told them what they can’t do Jesus then tells them what they can do –love one another, for by this everyone will know you are my disciples

–         That’s profoundly interesting – we might think (like Peter did) that people will know we are Jesus’ disciples by some grand gesture or heroic act – by putting ourselves in harm’s way and fighting Jesus’ enemies

–         But Jesus insists that people will know we belong to him by our love for one another


Loving one another is by far the more difficult thing

–         Love can be a glorious grand gesture but more often than not it is small and unseen – yet no less expensive

–         We love one another by being patient with those who frustrate us by their personality or rub us up the wrong way by their behaviour

–         We love one another by listening and seeking to understand, even though we ourselves may feel misunderstood

–         We love one another by singing each other’s songs in church

–         By sharing each other’s joys and sorrows

–         By praying for others and making them meals when they have a need

–         We love by forgiving hurts and saying ‘sorry’ when we mess up

–         We love others by guarding their reputation and being discreet

–         We love one another in a thousand other little ways that only God sees


Peter isn’t captured by the idea of loving one another, nor does he accept what Jesus is saying about not being able to follow him to the cross

–         At this point Peter stills sees himself as a brave hero, ready to lay down his life for Jesus

–         Perhaps Peter is under the illusion that he might somehow save Jesus

–         He does not realise yet that he can’t even save himself

–         So Jesus, in his grace, responds by pointing out to Peter something he is blind to – a truth he can’t yet see about himself

–         Namely, that Peter will deny Jesus three times before the rooster crows

–         And, as we know, this is exactly what Peter does


Later that night, when Jesus is arrested in the Garden, Peter draws his sword and cuts off the ear of the High Priest’s slave – Peter hasn’t accepted what Jesus has said, he still wants to be the hero – but Jesus puts a stop to the violence


Undaunted, Peter follows at a distance and manages to get into the courtyard of the high priest where Jesus is being interrogated

–         As he warms himself around a charcoal fire Peter is asked three times if he is one of Jesus’ companions and three times he denies it

–         It’s not until the cock crows that Peter remembers the Lord’s words to him, at which point the truth hits home

–         Luke’s gospel tells us that Peter went out and wept bitterly – this is a painful learning for the would be hero

–         Peter is filled with regret and remorse


Jesus & Peter after:

The good news is, the story doesn’t end there

–         After his death on the cross Jesus is resurrected by God and appears to his disciples on a number of occasions


One of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances was by Lake Tiberias

–         The disciples had been out fishing all night and caught nothing

–         So Jesus tells them (from the shore) to throw their net out one more time on the right side of the boat

–         At first the disciples don’t realise it is Jesus but they throw their net out anyway & struggle to pull it back in because they’d caught so many fish

–         Jesus has filled their empty net


When they realise it is the Lord, Peter (spontaneous as ever) dives into the water & swims ashore to meet Jesus (sort of like Forrest Gump swimming to Lt Dan)

–         From verse 15 of John 21 we pick up the story…


After they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?”

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

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my lambs.”

A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

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

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep.”

A third time Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter became sad because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and so he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you!”

Jesus said to him, “Take care of my sheep. I am telling you the truth: when you were young, you used to get ready and go anywhere you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you up and take you where you don’t want to go.”

(In saying this, Jesus was indicating the way in which Peter would die and bring glory to God.)  Then Jesus said to him, “Follow me!”


May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this Scripture reading for us


William Blake wrote a collection of poems he titled: Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul

–         It became a classic

–         I’m not sure exactly what William Blake meant by innocence but to my mind it is a state of not really knowing oneself all that well

–         Consequently there is a gap between the way those in a state of innocence perceive themselves and how others experience them

–         Those in a state of innocence are also prone to projecting their ideals on to others – ideals which those others may not share

–         This inevitably results in disappointment when those in a state of innocence realise they have placed their hope in the wrong things


Most of the young men who went off to fight in World War One were in a state of innocence

–         They had this misplaced idea that the war would be over quickly, that the Turks and the Germans would put up little resistance, that the generals would only make good decisions, that they would be impervious to the heat and the cold, the flies and the bullets, and that God was on their side

–         Those who survived lost their innocence


Experience is a ruthless teacher – it adjusts our perceptions, quite painfully sometimes

–         It’s not always pleasant learning something about yourself that you had been blind to but that others could see all along

–         Good Friday was, for Peter, a sort of innocence lost

–         Now, on the other side of the cross, Peter lives with his experience


In the passage we just read, from John 21, Jesus restores Peter

–         Previously Peter had denied Jesus three times

–         Now Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’

–         And three times Peter says, ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you’

–         And three times Jesus says, ‘Take care of my sheep’


Jesus does not give Peter the silent treatment

–         Jesus does not demand an apology from Peter

–         Jesus does not require Peter to grovel and beg

–         Nor Jesus does prescribe a punishment for Peter – he doesn’t need to

–         Peter is already painfully aware of his failure and has been beating himself up for days


The message is pretty clear

–         Peter’s sins are forgiven

–         Jesus does not hold anything against him

–         The relationship is restored but not exactly the way it was before


Before, in a state of innocence, Peter had thought he might be able to save Jesus

–         Now (after experience) he realises that Jesus has saved him


Before the cross, Peter trusted in himself to be able to the right thing

–         After the cross Peter is humbled and he trusts in Jesus’ grace


We see Peter’s humility in his response to Jesus’ three fold question

–         Peter does not point to his own actions to prove that he loves Jesus

–         Rather he appeals to Jesus’ knowledge of him – you know me Lord, you now all things 

–         Sometimes we may feel like we must do something great to prove our love for the Lord – but this is not necessary

–         What we come to in time is the realisation that Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves – even the unknown sub-conscious part


This begs the question, why then did Jesus keep questioning Peter’s love?

–         Well, Peter’s denials cast doubt on his credentials to serve & lead in the church

–         Not only did Peter need the opportunity to reverse his threefold denial, the other disciples also needed to see Peter formally reinstated

–         There is a certain formality to the way Jesus addresses Peter, using his full given name, ‘Simon, son of John’ (and not his nickname, Peter)

–         By formally & publicly reinstating Peter – saying three times, ‘Take care of my sheep’, Jesus is showing everyone that Peter has his blessing

–         And Jesus is showing the other disciples there is grace for them too

–         If Peter was still accepted after his denials, then they were accepted as well, even though they had abandoned their Lord in his time of need


Another hidden gem here is that, through the experience of the cross, Peter now loves Jesus as he really is and not just as he wishes Jesus to be [2]

–         In his state of innocence Peter loved the idea of a successful hero Messiah (like king David) and he projected this ideal, this fantasy, on to Jesus

–         By his actions Peter had shown that he did not want a crucified Messiah

–         When Jesus had tried to tell the disciples that he must suffer and die Peter took him aside to correct him – because this didn’t fit with Peter’s dream of a successful hero king

–         Peter had plans for Jesus and those plans didn’t include Jesus dying – that would be failure (as far as Peter was concerned)

–         But Jesus was crucified and with him Peter’s fantasy also died

–         Even though Jesus had disappointed Peter’s expectations Peter still maintained his loving devotion to the Lord


As Shakespeare put it, “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds”

–         In other words, true love is constant even though circumstances and perceptions might change


We, like Peter, may project onto God our own ideas or fantasy of what he is like and how he should behave

–         We may, for example, think of God as a divine Santa Claus – that he will give us what we want if we are good

–         Or we think of God as our own personal body guard – who won’t let any harm come to us

–         Or as a genie in a bottle ready to grant us our wishes

–         Or we may think becoming a Christian will make us healthy, wealthy & successful

–         For many people this is part of their journey of faith, a stage of innocence

–         Then we face the cross in our own personal way

–         Maybe God doesn’t answer our prayers as we thought he should

–         Or maybe he allows us to suffer illness or injustice without explanation

–         Whatever form our cross may take, when God doesn’t perform as we expect our fantasy of Him is crucified and we may feel let down by Jesus

–         In that experience of disappointment we, like Peter, have a choice

–         Are we going to love God as he really is & not just as we wish him to be?


On hearing Peter’s threefold affirmation of love, Jesus’ threefold commission is ‘take care of my sheep’

–         Peter is to express his love for Jesus by caring for Jesus’ followers

–         Love is the main qualification for pastoral ministry

–         The primary qualification for being a minister is love

–         Just as the primary qualification for being a Sunday school teacher or a youth group leader or a parent or a brother or sister, son or daughter, is love


Love of Jesus goes hand in hand with love of his people

–         We’ve already heard Jesus say, ‘Love one another for by this everyone will know you are my disciples’

–         The implication here is that those who say they love Jesus but do not love other Christians are kidding themselves

–         They may love an idea or fantasy they have of Jesus but not the reality


Grace begets grace

–         Jesus had shown Peter grace when Peter failed and so it is significant that Peter shows grace to others in his ministry

–         Last year, during our series on inter-generational relationships in the Bible, we looked at the relationship between John Mark and Peter

–         John Mark was rejected by the apostle Paul because Mark turned back while on a missions trip

–         But Peter took Mark under his wing, despite Mark’s failure, probably because Peter knew what it was like to be in Mark’s shoes

–         It is thought that the gospel of Mark was written by John Mark who had followed Peter around listening to his preaching

–         Eventually Mark & Paul repaired their relationship but I’m not sure it would have had the happy ending it did if Peter hadn’t shown Mark grace

–         Of course Peter was simply following Jesus’ example – paying forward the grace he himself had experienced


Having formally reinstated Peter, Jesus then goes on to foretell Peter’s future

–         In John 13 Jesus had said, you can’t follow me now where I am going

–         (Meaning you can’t die on the cross with me)

–         Now, in John 21, Jesus says to Peter, ‘Follow me’

–         ‘…when you were young, you used to get ready and go anywhere you wanted to; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you up and take you where you don’t want to go.’


Jesus is saying here that Peter will get the opportunity to follow in his footsteps by dying on a cross (stretch out your hands is a euphemism for crucifixion)

–         Tradition tells us that when Peter was old he refused to deny Jesus

–         As a consequence the authorities led Peter out to be crucified like Jesus

–         But Peter said he was not worthy to die like his Lord

–         So they crucified Peter upside down

In the end Peter was ready to die for Jesus – not to be a hero or to draw attention to himself, but rather to affirm the truth of Jesus’ resurrection



The beauty is, God used Peter’s weakness & failure for good

–         If Peter can be restored after denying Jesus then so can we


In a few moments we will share communion together

–         Communion is a time when we remember Jesus’ death and affirm his resurrection

–         To share communion is to say with Peter and millions of other believers, “Yes Lord, you know I love you”

–         Communion is not a grand gesture on our part

–         But is a significant aspect of following Jesus and loving one another

–         In communion we remember our own sin and Jesus’ grace in restoring us

Questions for discussion & reflection:

1.)    What stands out for you in reading this Scripture and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    Have you ever done the ‘Johari Window’ exercise before?

–         What did you learn?

3.)    How was Peter’s perception of himself different before and after the cross?

4.)    What does it mean to love one another? (Think of practical examples)

5.)    What does it mean to be in a state of innocence?

–         How is this different from a state of experience?

6.)    Why did Jesus ask if Peter loved him three times, in front of the others?

–         Why did Peter appeal to Jesus’ knowledge of him? (I.e. Why does Peter say, ‘You know I love you Lord’?)

7.)     Before the cross Peter had a false perception of Jesus – he loved Jesus as he wished Jesus to be. After the resurrection Peter’s perception had changed and he loved Jesus as he really is (a crucified & risen Messiah).

–         Has your perception of Jesus changed since becoming a Christian? How so?

–         Have you (like Peter) had a personal cross experience, when you felt disappointed by God and your fantasy of Jesus was crucified?

–         Do you still love Jesus as he really is or only as you wish him to be?

8.)    Grace begets grace. Jesus showed Peter grace and Peter paid it forward to John Mark. Take some time this week to reflect on the grace you have been shown by others. How (or who) might you pay this grace forward to?



[2] Refer Leon Morris, NICTNT on John, page 768.