John 21:15-23 So 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, "Tend My lambs." (16) He *said to him again 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, "Shepherd 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 all things; You know that I love You." Jesus *said to him, "Tend My sheep. (18) "Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." (19) Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, "Follow Me!" (20) Peter, turning around, *saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays You?" (21) So Peter seeing him *said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" (22) Jesus *said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!" (23) Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?"
I have always thought that Jesus was questioning Peter's love for Him and wanted to make it clear if Peter was going to follow Him. I now wonder if that isn't really what is happening at all. Let's think about what has happened.
Before Jesus' death Peter declared that he would never deny Jesus even if everyone else did. That very evening Peter denied Christ multiple times. He along with others had doubts when others told them about the resurrection. Peter has failed on a colossal level. He was part of the greatest movement led by the greatest teacher and he failed.
What do you do when you fail? Some of us try harder. Others quit. Often when we seek to do something great or make changes and fail we go back to what we know best. For some this is going back to a negative lifestyle or bad habit. It's not that we think it is good, but it is what we know. There's nothing wrong with fishing. It was a respectable way to make a living. But at the core of Peter's being, he longed for something greater. He long to be a part of something bigger than himself.
Before this conversation with Peter Jesus was on the shore cooking fish (John 21:9) He then tells the disciples to bring some of the fish they caught and then they eat breakfast. They do not eat the fish they caught. These fish are part of an object lesson. When they finished eating breakfast Jesus ask Peter Do you love me more than these? What are the "these?" Its got to be the fish. Peter responded, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." This questioning and answering repeats itself two more times with Peter exasperated. "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Peter is right the Lord knows all things. The Lord knows that Peter loves Him. When the Lord ask us a question it is not because he needs to know something.
Jesus is essentially saying. "Yes, Peter you have failed. But I want you to think, do you love these more than me? Of course you don't. Don't trade lessor things for the best. Peter you need to leave these behind. I know your love. Don't focus on your past failures. Don't turn from what I have called you. I have called you to something great."
What are the "These" in your life that you turn to when you fail? The question isn't if we will have times when we fall short, but what will we do when we do?