It is days after the resurrection, and the humdrum of life fills the streets of Jerusalem once again. The pace of the disciples, however, is anything but normal. They follow Jesus closely, not wanting Him to leave them again.
Can you imagine their thoughts as they: see Him walk the streets and sit before them; have conversations full of memories shared—the “do you remember when’s” and such; share meals, some prepared with His forever-wounded hands.
It’s quite profound when you put yourself in their shoes.
Imagine you’re Peter: You have walked on water; received revelation that Jesus is the Son of God; denied Him, not once, but thrice; and rushed to the empty tomb upon the news, “He’s alive!” You see Him and cannot deny that it is really Him. And, then it happened—a conversation with Jesus after breakfast that you will never forget. It changed everything, and went something like this:
Jesus: Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?
Peter: Yes, you know that I love You.
Jesus: Then feed my lambs.
Jesus: Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?
Peter: Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.
Do you feel the inner tension of this conversation? A few days prior when Jesus most needed your friendship, you didn’t act like you loved Him … when you were accused of being one of His followers. Your eyes met His, and you denied affiliation. “I don’t know that man,” were the words you spoke, only to go hide from the chaos. The memory has haunted you every day since then. Truth was, and is—that in your heart of hearts—you do know Him and love Him—above all else you love Him!
Jesus: Tend My sheep.
And once more, this time the question rips a zigzag into your heart, leaving you exposed …
Jesus: Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?
Undone by His consistent prods, you feel the pent-up anger you’ve held against yourself for having done what you did, give way to the love you feel in His presence. You can feel your self-defense fall away as you acknowledge His omniscience. You reckon He must know, and so, you say…
Peter: Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.
Jesus: Feed My sheep. (John 21:15-17, my paraphrase and emphasis.)
Your love for Jesus is immense. When you think about all you know to be true about Him, your heart burns. You are zealous.
Or at least you want to be … again … because if you’re like Peter at the point of this particular conversation, your inner wrestling of “what once was” and “what then happened” and “what now is” makes you doubt your own convictions and question where you stand with Jesus. This is the point at which you get your prayer life back.
The purpose of this post-breakfast exchange is restoration.
Jesus knew Peter needed confrontation, but not in its traditional connotation. He knew Peter needed an encounter where the thoughts of his mind (and all the lies racing through his head about what a failure he was) were made subject to what he knew to be true in his heart. Jesus never affirmed him with “There, there, I know you love Me. I want you now to go feed My sheep.” No, it was a simple understanding of love. Go feed My sheep. Peter was good to go.
Maybe you’ve been looking for this “there, there” affirmation from the Lord. You’ve groveled over what you did wrong, that you’ll never do it again, and if only you could prove your love, etc. etc.
What if your conversation with Jesus was something similar to Peter’s? “Do you love Me?” Yes. “Go feed My sheep.”
Many times I’ve been here. I thought I messed up too much—didn’t stand up for my convictions, didn’t defend the underdog as I should have, didn’t make the right decision, didn’t whatever, and the lies came:
… My prayers are ineffective.
… If I couldn’t do this, then what makes me think I should have His ear?
… Who am I? I say I love Jesus, but then act as if I don’t.
The fact is, as many of you have probably heard, if you’re torn up inside over where your relationship with Jesus is, then you’re not “too far gone.” I have to believe Peter battled this insecurity of where He was with Jesus, as well. And the very thing that broke him loose to pursue the calling on His life is the very thing that will break you free, too. He had a conversation with His Lord and received a command.
I believe the greatest thing we can do to get our prayer life back on track is to have this conversation with the Lord where it is simply a given: He loves me and I love Him. We touch His heart and He touches ours, not in words but in presence. We know we are good before Him. Period. End of story. And from there, we go and serve His sheep. We defend the faith; serve the local body; learn from those further along in the faith journey, and we continue to cultivate our inner life with God.
And this is where we pick up Peter’s story. It is now days after this post-breakfast conversation, and Jesus leaves the disciples to go be with His Father in Heaven. Before He goes, He leaves one final instruction: Don’t leave Jerusalem until you receive the promised gift. The disciples remained day-in-day-out in Jerusalem waiting, praying and fellowshiping.
And then He came—the promised gift, the Holy Spirit. Like a loud, rushing wind, He descended upon and filled the disciples. They then left the upper room and went into the streets of Jerusalem. With tongues of fire, Scripture says, they proclaimed the good news, speaking in various languages so all present could hear in their native tongue (Acts 2).
Peter gave the first sermon of the Church that day in the streets of Jerusalem. He retold Old Testament stories and shared how Jesus fulfilled Scripture and was the promised Messiah. From that day forward, Peter preached the good news of Jesus Christ. He would endure persecution and would ultimately die at the hands of Jesus-haters. But he never denied Him again. He suffered joyfully. He loved being identified as a Jesus-follower. I believe the same is true for you.
I believe after you have a similar post-breakfast conversation with the Lord, you will know you’re good before Him, your prayer life will be back on track, and you will go forth serving His body with joy, gratitude, and love.
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