In a lecture in 1911, Oswald Chambers reflected on being a young shepherd in the highlands of Scotland: “When you have to carry across your shoulders a dirty old [goat] and bring it down the mountain-side, you will soon know whether shepherding is poetry or not.” He didn’t want to romanticize this form of labor as “poetry” but rather called it “the most taxing, the most exhausting, and the most exasperating work.” The hard work of shepherding people is what Jesus entrusted to Peter, for Peter would face criticism, misunderstanding, and other challenges in caring for His flock.
Chambers reflected, “To whom did He say, ‘Feed My lambs’? To Peter. Who was Peter? A very wayward sheep.” Even though Peter had denied knowing Jesus (see John 18:15–27), Jesus met him on the beach and lovingly restored him in front of the other disciples (21:15–19). Peter’s bitter experience taught him how to be tender and watchful over the Lord’s sheep. Having received the Holy Spirit, he was ready for the toil and joys of being a shepherd to people.
Like Peter, we may have failed Jesus through denials, wrongdoing, selfishness, or pride. But He seeks us out and forgives us, just as He did Peter. Watch Meno Kalisher’s, Daniel Kalisher’s, and Debby Nalbandian’s devotional video in Episode 7 of In Pursuit of Jesus below and learn more about God’s forgiveness and restoration. He restores us and gives us a new commission—helping us care for others. As we follow Jesus, we share our love for Him with those we meet.
Some scholars speculate that John 21, while fully inspired and no doubt written by John, was actually written later and added to the original first twenty chapters. Clearly, the ending of chapter 20 could serve as an adequate conclusion to John’s gospel record. Commentators suggest one purpose for adding chapter 21 as a “second” ending is to show how Jesus restores Peter after his denial. Additionally, verses 20–23 clarify a misunderstanding about Christ’s return. When Jesus told Peter that it shouldn’t be his concern if John were to live until He returns, people drew false conclusions. So John wrote: “Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’ ” (v. 23).