Restoration - Who Needs It?

Bible Book: John  21 : 15-25
Subject: Restoration; Revival; Renewal; Dedication

Restoration: Who needs it?  Peter did.  The synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, record Jesus’ warning and the disciple’s response.  Matthew 26:31-35 reads, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: “I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.’  Peter answered and said to Him, ‘Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’  Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’  Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ And so said all the disciples.” Luke 22:31-34 reads, “And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’ But he said to Him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.’ Then He said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.’” (Emphasis mine)

Someone reportedly said, “Don’t say you’ll go to jail over your faith when you won’t even go to church for it.”1

All four gospels record Simon Peter’s denial of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Since our text is in John, note John 18:15-18, “And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.  But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in.  Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?’  He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.”

Mark 16:7 reads, “But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” Luke 24:32-34 reads, “And they said to one another, ‘Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?’ So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, ‘The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!’” 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 reads, “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.” (Emphasis mine) Oswald Chambers (1847-1917) explains in My Utmost for His Highest, “Peter had denied Jesus Christ with oaths and curses, and yet after the Resurrection Jesus appeared to Peter alone.  He restored him in private, then He restored him before the others.”2

Luke 22:55 reads, “And when they had kindled a fire... Peter sat down among them.”  John 21:9 reads, “As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there.”  On these two verses Dr. Vance Havner (1901-1986) explains, “Peter warmed himself at the enemy’s fire—and denied His Lord. The devil always has a convenient fire for saints who are about to slip. Taking it easy is often the prelude to backsliding. Comfort precedes collapse. 

Days later, Peter warmed at another fire, the coals His Master had kindled on the beach. There he met the question, ‘Lovest thou me?’ and received the commission, ‘Feed my sheep.’

Many Christians are living in an interim between Satan's Fire and the Saviour's Fire. If you have fallen because you warmed yourself when you should have warned yourself, the Lord seeks an interview. Peter, the backslider, was marked Special: ‘Go tell his disciples and Peter’ (Mk. 16:7). He does not want to fire you out but to fire you up!

If you have collapsed at Satan's Fire, you may be converted at the Saviour’s Fire. Do not live ‘between fires.’”3

John 21:15-19 reads, “So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, 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.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?’ He said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.’  He said to him, ‘Tend My sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed My sheep.  Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.’ This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”

Dr. J. C. Ryle (1816-1900) writes, “THESE verses [John 21:15-17] describe a remarkable conversation between our Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostle Peter. To the careful Bible reader, who remembers the Apostle's thrice-repeated denial of Christ, the passage cannot fail to be a deeply interesting portion of Scripture. Well would it be for the Church, if all ‘after-meal’ conversations among Christians were as useful and edifying as this.”4  I am grateful to Dr. Ryle for the overarching theme and for some of the things I will share under the main points of this message.

Notice three things about the actions of Jesus.

I. First, note Jesus’ loving inquiry.

Dr. J. C. Ryle writes, “We should notice first, in these verses, Christ's question to Peter—‘Simon, son of John, do you love Me?’ Three times we find the same inquiry made. It seems most probable that this three-fold repetition was meant to remind the Apostle of his own thrice-repeated denial. Once we find a remarkable addition to the inquiry—‘do you love Me more than these?’ It is a reasonable supposition that those three words ‘more than these,’ were meant to remind Peter of his over-confident assertion—‘Though all men deny You, yet I will not.’ It is just as if our Lord would say, ‘Will you now exalt yourself above others? Have you yet learned your own weakness?’

‘Do you love Me’ may seem at first sight a simple question. In one sense it is so. Even a child can understand love, and can say whether he loves another or not. Yet ‘Do you love Me’ is, in reality, a very searching question. We may know much, and do much, and profess much, and talk much, and work much, and give much, and go through much, and make much show in our religion, and yet be dead before God, from lack of love, and at last go down to the pit. Do we love Christ? That is the great question. Without this there is no vitality about our Christianity. We are no better than painted wax figures, lifeless stuffed beasts in a museum, sounding brass and tinkling cymbals. There is no life where there is no love.

Let us take heed that there is some feeling in our religion. Knowledge, orthodoxy, correct views, regular use of forms, a respectable moral life--all these do not make up a true Christian. There must be some personal feeling towards Christ. Feeling alone, no doubt, is a poor useless thing, and may be here today and gone tomorrow. But the entire absence of feeling is a very bad symptom, and speaks ill for the state of a man’s soul. The men and women to whom Paul wrote his Epistles had feelings, and were not ashamed of them. There was One in heaven whom they loved, and that One was Jesus the Son of God. Let us strive to be like them, and to have some real feeling in our Christianity, if we hope to share their reward.”5

Genesis 3:9 reads, “Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ ” Remember, the Omniscient God is not asking for information.  In essence, Jesus is asking Simon Peter, “Where are you?”  God asks this question of men and women to help us determine where we stand with Him.  Therefore, we ask in His behalf, “Where are you?”   

II. Second, note Jesus’ listening interest.

Dr. J. C. Ryle writes, “We should notice, secondly, in these verses, Peter's answer to Christ's question. Three times we find the Apostle saying, ‘You know that I love You.’ Once we are told that he said, ‘You know all things.’ Once we have the touching remark made, that he was ‘grieved to be asked the third time.’ We need not doubt that our Lord, like a skillful physician, stirred up this grief intentionally. He intended to pierce the Apostle’s conscience, and to teach him a solemn lesson. If it was grievous to the disciple to be questioned, how much more grievous must it have been to the Master to be denied!

The answer that the humbled Apostle gave, is the one account that the true servant of Christ in every age can give of his religion. Such an one may be weak, and fearful, and ignorant, and unstable, and failing in many things, but at any rate he is real and sincere. Ask him whether he is converted, whether he is a believer, whether he has grace, whether he is justified, whether he is sanctified, whether he is elect, whether he is a child of God--ask him any one of these questions and he may perhaps reply that he really does not know! But ask him whether he loves Christ, and he will reply, ‘I do!’ He may add that he does not love Him as much as he ought to do; but he will not say that he does not love Him at all. The rule will be found true with very few exceptions. Wherever there is true grace, there will be a consciousness of love towards Christ.

What, after all, is the great secret of loving Christ? It is an inward sense of having received from Him pardon and forgiveness of sins. Those love much who feel much forgiven. He who has come to Christ with his sins, and tasted the blessedness of free and full absolution, he is the man whose heart will be full of love towards his Savior. The more we realize that Christ has suffered for us, and paid our debt to God, and that we are washed and justified through His blood, the more we shall love Him for having loved us, and given Himself for us. Our knowledge of doctrines may be defective. Our ability to defend our views in argument may be small. But we cannot be prevented feeling. And our feeling will be like that of the Apostle Peter—‘You, Lord, who know all things, You know my heart; and You know that I love You.’”6

Jesus is genuinely interested in our response.  When Jesus extends His hand of restoration, you can receive it or reject it!  You can say, “Restoration: Who needs it?”    

III. Third, note Jesus’ leading injunction.

Dr. J. C. Ryle writes, “We should notice, lastly, in these verses, Christ's command to Peter. Three times we find Him saying, ‘Feed my flock.’ Once, ‘Feed my lambs;’ and twice, ‘Feed my sheep.’ Can we doubt for a moment that this thrice-repeated charge was full of deep meaning? It was meant to commission Peter once more to do the work of an Apostle, notwithstanding his recent fall. But this was only a small part of the meaning. It was meant to teach Peter and the whole Church the mighty lesson, that usefulness to others is the grand test of love, and working for Christ the great proof of really loving Christ. It is not loud talk and high profession; it is not even impetuous, spasmodic zeal, and readiness to draw the sword and fight--it is steady, patient, laborious effort to do good to Christ's sheep scattered throughout this sinful world, which is the best evidence of being a true-hearted disciple. This is the real secret of Christian greatness. It is written in another place, ‘Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must become your slave.’ (Matt. 20:26-28.)

Forever let the parting charge of our blessed Master abide in our consciences, and come up in the practice of our daily lives. It is not for nothing we may be sure, that we find these things recorded for our learning, just before He left the world. Let us aim at a loving, doing, useful, hard-working, unselfish, kind, unpretentious religion. Let it be our daily desire to think of others, care for others, do good to others, and to lessen the sorrow, and increase the joy of this sinful world. This is to realize the great principle which our Lord’s command to Peter was intended to teach. So living, and so laboring to order our ways, we shall find it abundantly true, that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35.)”7

Dr. Alfred Plummer (1841-1926) explains, “One is tempted to adopt S[t]. Ambrose’s order in vv. 15, 16, 17—‘lambs,’ ‘little sheep,’ ‘sheep’ (agnos, oviculas, oves) which seems also to have been the reading of the old Syriac: but the balance of evidence is against it.  But without counting the possible difference between ‘little sheep’ and ‘sheep,’ there are three important distinctions obliterated in the A. V. [Authorized Version], —the two words rendered ‘love,’ the two rendered ‘feed,’ and the two rendered ‘know.’

[Even if John 21:15-17 might not be translated “lambs” “little sheep” and “sheep”, 1 John 2:12-14 provides the following designations of levels of maturity: “I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.  I write to you, fathers, Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.  I write to you, young men, Because you have overcome the wicked one.  I write to you, little children, Because you have known the Father.  I have written to you, fathers, I Because you have known Him who is from the beginning.  I have written to you, young men, Because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, And you have overcome the wicked one.”]

S[t]. Peter seems to recall this charge in his First Epistle (v. 2,3), a passage which in the plainest terms condemns the policy of those who on the strength of this charge have claimed to rule as his successors over the whole of Christ’s flock.”8  1 Peter 5:1-4 reads, “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly;  nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.”

Some might think denial is not so bad, but denial is a serious sin.  There are at least two ways to deny the Lord who bought us.   

There is denial by words.  Matthew 10:32-33 reads, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” 2 Timothy 2:11-13 reads, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, We shall also live with Him.   If we endure, We shall also reign with Him.  If we deny Him, He also will deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.” 1 John 4:2-3 reads, “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.” (Emphasis mine)

There is denial by works. Titus 1:16 reads, “They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”  2 Peter 2:1-3 reads, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.” Jude 4 reads, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Emphasis mine)

Do you remember the account of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)? Mark Galli and Ted Olsen share, “On the day of his execution, Cranmer was led into a church, and when it was his turn to speak, he drew out a piece of paper and began to read. He thanked the people for their prayers and then said, ‘I come to the great thing that troubleth my conscience more than any other thing that I ever said or did in my life.’ Referring to the recantations he had signed, he blurted out, ‘All such bills which I have written or signed with my own hand [are] untrue.’”  After expressing his deep convictions about the error of those in church leadership, “Cranmer was immediately dragged from the stage and out to the stake. The fire was kindled and quickly the flame leapt up. Cranmer stretched out his right arm and hand into the flame and held it there as he said, ‘This hand hath offended.’ Only once did he withdraw it to wipe his face, and then he returned it until it had burned to a stump. Praying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ he died.”  Although Cranmer denied the faith for a time, he repented.9

Dr. David Brown (1803-1897), former professor of theology, Aberdeen, Scotland, shares the following: “Shall we say (with many) that Peter was here reinstated in office? Not exactly, since he was not actually excluded from it. But after such conduct as his, the deep wound which the honor of Christ had received, the stain brought on his office, the damage done to his high standing among his brethren, and even his own comfort, in prospect of the great work before him, required some such renewal of his call and re-establishment of his position as this.”10

In the words of Isaac Watts (1674-1748): 

Am I a soldier of the cross,

A follower of the Lamb,

And shall I fear to own His cause,

Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies

On flowery beds of ease,

While others fought to win the prize,

And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?

Must I not stem the flood?

Is this vile world a friend to grace,

To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;

Increase my courage, Lord.

I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,

Supported by Thy Word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war

Shall conquer, though they die;

They see the triumph from afar,

By faith’s discerning eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,

And all Thy armies shine

In robes of victory through the skies,

The glory shall be Thine.11


It is important for us to remember how this account concludes.  John 21:20-25 reads, “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved [John] following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, ‘Lord, who is the one who betrays You?’ Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘But Lord, what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.’  Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?’  This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true.  And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.” (Emphasis mine) 

If you have denied the Lord and left the pathway of discipleship, now is the time to return, if you can hear His voice, harden not your heart.  Can you hear Jesus calling you back from backsliding? 

If “. . . you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first work. . .” (Revelation 2:4b-5a), as Jesus said to the church in Ephesus.  Each one of us must decide to accept or reject Jesus Christ as Lord.  Beware of anyone who tells you there is restoration without repentance.  Sadly, some say, “Restoration: who needs it?”

1Rev. Cary Gordon@Rev_Gordon, Twitter, April 7, 2016. Accessed: 04/12/16 .

2Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, August 16th “Does He Know Me” (New York, NY: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1935, 1963), 229.

3Vance Havner, Day by Day: A Book of Bible Devotions “Between Two Fires” November 28 (New York, NY: Fleming H. Revell Co. 1953), 248. Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.  

4J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: St. John, Volume 3 (London: William Hunt and Company, 1873), 2. Accessed: 04/12/16 .

5Ryle, Gospels, 2-3.

6Ryle, Gospels, 3. 

7Ryle, Gospels, 3-4. 

8Alfred Plummer, The Gospel According to Saint John (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1891), 374.

9Mark Galli and Ted Olsen, 131 Christians Everyone Should Know: From the Editors of Christian History Magazine (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 374. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

10Rev. Robert Jamieson, D.D, Rev. A. R. Fausset, Rev. David Brown, D.D., A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and Testaments (Hartford, CT: S. S. Scranton & Co., 1787), 2:171.

11Isaac Watts, “Am I A Soldier of the Cross?” (1721) Accessed: 04/12/16 . 

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & /   / (251) 626-6210

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