Three Denials Redeemed by Three Calls

John 21

Key Verse | John 21:7

That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.

Scripture | John 21

Jesus Appears to Seven Disciples

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards 1 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Jesus and Peter

15 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, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him 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, “Tend 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Jesus and the Beloved Apostle

20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers 2 21:23 Or brothers and sisters that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”

24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.


[1] 21:8 Greek two hundred cubits; a cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[2] 21:23 Or brothers and sisters

Three Denials Redeemed by Three Calls

Devo | John 21

Jesus appears to His disciples for the third time after His resurrection, but in a peculiar way. While the disciples are out fishing—without success—Jesus shows up on the shore, unrecognizable to them. He...

Jesus appears to His disciples for the third time after His resurrection, but in a peculiar way. While the disciples are out fishing—without success—Jesus shows up on the shore, unrecognizable to them. He offers them fishing advice that in turn yields more fish than they can haul in! Although he was once fearful of the wind and water (Matthew 14:30), the moment Peter realizes who Jesus is, he immediately flings himself into the water to swim toward Jesus.

Remember: Peter had previously denied Jesus! It would have been easy for Peter to let shame and fear rule. He could have turned away from Jesus in humiliation. But Peter so deeply believed Jesus, trusted His character, and knew the depth of His love for him that he threw himself into the water and swam like a lab toward his Master, unable to wait another second!  

One of the first things Jesus does after resurrecting and appearing to the disciples is to break bread (John 21:12-14). He served, ate, and enjoyed their presence. Things could have looked differently: a rushed meal, a hurried lesson before ascending? But that's not the way of Jesus. He is and always has been in the business of relationships and intimacy. He's ALWAYS drawing near to us, desiring to rejoice over us and delight in us.

As a believer, there's not a moment God doesn't delight in you, as you are HIS. What might life look like if we believed and rested in this truth?

Jesus doesn't leave Peter's sin unaddressed; rather, He redeems it. In John 21:15-19, Jesus asks, "[D]o you love me?" and calls Peter to feed His sheep. He gives Peter a new identity, one that includes hardship—well, martyrdom actually (John 21:18-19). Christ's call on our lives to go and make disciples is a call to self-denial, possible rejection, and hardship. But He provides everything we need for the journey as He is with us and gives us hope—one day we'll be with him. 

Jesus isn't asking for legalistic obedience or religion; He wants your heart—a heart so abandoned to Him that its instinctive response is to pour out and love others.

Discussion Questions

1. How would you respond to seeing Jesus if you were in Peter's shoes? What does that tell you about your view of God's character and heart toward you? 

2. Where do you let shame, fear, or guilt rule your life?

3. What are ways in which you find assurance, hope, identity, and security? Is it in earthly desires or good morality/religion, or is it rightfully placed "in the Beloved" (Ephesians 1:6)?

4. What parts of your life would look different if you truly, deeply believed God loves you? How would your responses, decisions, interactions, joy, and contentment change?

5. How does God's love for you empower you to live a life of surrender?

Meet Anna Cate Wallace

Hi, friends! My name is AC Wallace, and God is redeeming my life from fear, pride, self-sufficiency, anger, and insecurity by His grace that is the gospel. He is continuing to convince me of His love for me even though I am undeserving.

By the time you read this devo, I will have been married for THREE days to the love of my life, Graham Shelby! Next to my relationship with the Lord, Graham is my greatest gift, treasure, and delight.

I love the promise that God's Word never returns void, and I pray that John 21 draws you to behold God in a truer and deeper way.

6 Comments available

Hugh Stephenson 1 day ago

GM AC! And GM Graham!! Congrats to you both!

An amazing chapter with an amazing devo. Wonderfully done. Love your truth about Jesus about the “way of Jesus”. A friend notes, Jesus was NEVER in a hurry.

He knew who He was and why He came- and stayed on mission.

Amy, (Proverbs 31), and I went with a group to Israel in 2018. Traditionally, the location of this encounter in John 21 is at the beach near the Primacy of St Peter church.

primacy of st peter church

John 21 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. I identify with Peter’s impulsivity and his “all in or all out” temperament.

He’s all in when a few days earlier he said he would die with Jesus, (Matthew 26:35).

Then he denied him three times.

Then he says he’s going fishing.

Then he jumps out of the boat.

Hugh Stephenson 1 day ago

What I like is the description of this last action- reckless abandonment in swimming/running to Jesus to follow Him.

Chambers on faith from 10/31,

“We have the idea that God rewards us for our faith, and it may be so in the initial stages. But we do not earn anything through faith— faith brings us into the right relationship with God and gives Him His opportunity to work. Yet God frequently has to knock the bottom out of your experience as His saint to get you in direct contact with Himself. God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of emotional enjoyment of His blessings.”

Hugh Stephenson 1 day ago

The highlight of the chapter for me is the exchange between Jesus and Peter where Jesus asks Peter twice if he agapaō Him,

Peter responds that he phileō Jesus,

Chambers has a great devo on this verse on 3/1 and 3/3,

Also, Todd Wagner’s book “Come and See” has a great piece on this in chapter 20.

Jermaine Harrison about 16 hours ago

Let’s go AC! Thanks for sharing. It was so encouraging to read your perspective of Jesus’ intentionality and presence with His disciples. The similarities between this miracle and the feeding of the 5,000 way earlier in John is so striking: Jesus is the one that provides, and more than meets their needs. And ours too!

I’m praying that today we trust in Christ’s provision and the unique plan He has for each of us on our journey of following Him.

Sue Bohlin about 13 hours ago

(1/2) Thanks AC, and congratulations!

I am grateful for Dr. Constable’s perspective on Jesus’ conversation with Peter. The pointed questions were about love, which is an absolute essential to following Him both in serving and in leading others. But the commission was to shepherd His (not Peter’s) sheep. Having grown up under the teaching that Jesus appointed Peter the first Pope, it’s good to see that Jesus was really calling Peter to just be a faithful shepherd. Which he certainly embraced, when he wrote this to elders in 1 Peter 5:

Sue Bohlin about 13 hours ago

(2/2) “So as your fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings and as one who shares in the glory that will be revealed, I urge the elders among you: Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly. And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock. Then when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that never fades away.”

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