Study 28 – John 21v15-25 – The Talk.
(For CBC house groups on 1st Sep 2010 – for word doc download click here)
In our final study in John’s gospel the focus turns to Peter. He has been a strong character throughout John’s gospel, but critically at his time of testing he denied evening knowing his Saviour and Lord. Now Jesus confronts him directly with his failure – is this the end of Peter’s ministry before it has even begun or would Jesus find a way to reinstate his most enthusiastic disciple?
1. Jim began by asking us to remember a significant conversation we have had that was hard at the time, but we appreciated later. Can you think of such a conversation? What was done well, and not so well? Are there lessons we can learn from how we have been spoken to in the past?
2. Jim said “Jesus loved Peter too much to leave him alone” – how do we decide when, and when not to, rebuke one another (compare Mat 18.15, 1 Tim 5.1 & 1 Peter 4.8)? How do we strike the balance between love & truth, covering over & exposing?
3. What does Jesus’ response to Peter’s three confessions say about his priorities for the apostles? What is the connection between our love for Jesus and our love for the church? (1 John 2.9-10, Ephesians 5.25-27). How can we grow in our love for the church despite the frustrations and failings we experience?
4. We see in v15-17 that our love for Jesus is the defining criteria for service in the church. How does love for Christ inevitably lead to service of others? Do we come to church to serve or be served? What does this say about our own spiritual health?
5. Peter’s appointment as an elder and spiritual overseer has been a rocky road. One commentator says: “each shepherd of the flock of God…is to mirror both authority and a certain brokenness that is utterly exemplary (his emphasis).” How should this temper our enthusiasm for seeking this responsibility (1 Tim 3.1)? How should this inform our appointing of elders?
6. Peter had always been keen to follow Jesus, yet in v18-19 he learns that his discipleship would end in martyrdom. Peter laboured for many years waiting for this prophecy to be fulfilled; rather than crippling him, it liberated him. How would we respond to such a call to sacrifice?
7. In v20-24 the beloved disciple comes into view. Although both are called to spiritual leadership, one of them is “called to strategic pastoral ministry and a martyr’s crown, the other to a long life and to strategic historical-theological witness, in written form.” Jesus refuses to compare the two callings for Peter and John – how does their different ministries encourage us to labour in our area of service? How does it help us not to esteem certain ministries over others?
Through his humiliation and subsequent reinstation Peter is now ready to be a true servant of the church. No longer the brash, confident leader, he has learnt the frailty of his own nature and will from now on tread carefully as he grows in spiritual maturity. His self-righteousness has been replaced with tenderness and compassion, and he will show by his fruitful ministry over three decades that he has become a wise and loving Shepard. As he encourage the scattered flock:
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow-elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed. Be shepherd’s of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Peter 5.1-3)