The text for this lesson is Book of John 21:4–19
- Jesus has kept God’s commands in our place. Through God’s gift of faith in Him, Jesus’ righteousness is now counted as ours.
- Law: Like Peter, I may wonder if God loves and forgives me, a sinner, when His Law rightly condemns me for failing in thought, desire, word, and deed to do what God wants me to do.
- Gospel: Just as in Peter’s case, God forgives me for the sake of His Son, Jesus, who innocently endured suffering on the cross and death in order to satisfy God’s righteous demands for sin.
- It was Passover, the high point of the Jewish year. Jesus had entered Jerusalem amidst fanfare, riding on a small donkey. During the last days of His life on earth before His crucifixion, Jesus drove the money-changers from the temple, was anointed with perfume in Bethany, celebrated the Passover, instituted the Lord’s Supper with His disciples, was arrested, and underwent trial. In the course of these events, Peter, having previously pledged ultimate loyalty to Jesus, betrayed Him three times, just as Christ had predicted. Following Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, our Lord presents Himself to Peter and the others, giving a large catch of fish and forgiving Peter.
Peter, along with James and John, was part of Jesus’ inner circle. He was present for numerous important events in Jesus’ ministry: walking on the water with Jesus, at His transfiguration, and praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Despite his close relationship with Jesus, Peter denies Him. When Jesus reinstates Peter, we imagine that the disciple’s heart must have broken to hear Jesus ask three times if he loved Him. We wonder if the question, repeated three times, took Peter back to his threefold denial. Then Jesus forgives and reinstates Peter as an apostle. Our Lord also tasks Peter with caring for His sheep and foretells Peter’s eventual death.
Peter was zealous to serve the Lord; perhaps he wanted to believe that he could earn Jesus’ forgiveness through committed service, or he wanted to please Jesus with his devotion. We are tempted in this manner as well. Feeling ashamed of our sins, we begin to take mental inventory of all our good acts, hoping they will outweigh the transgressions. We attend worship, not to receive God’s wonderful gifts of Word and Sacrament, but rather as a penance of sorts for disobeying God or as an attempt to earn His favor. Every effort to undo our sin or to earn God’s favor through merit or works makes a mockery of God’s grace and His Son’s suffering and death on the cross.
Jesus undoes the power of sin by keeping the Law perfectly in our place. Our redemption required another human, a Second Adam, to remain sinless in life, for we have failed. Jesus came into the world in human flesh, fully responsible to keep God’s Law and experiencing every temptation. Yet, He resisted. His every thought was pure and in line with His Father’s will. His every word was true, glorifying His Father in heaven and teaching about life in the kingdom of God. When obedience required Jesus to act, He did. When it required restraint, He submitted. Through faith, God sees the perfect life of Jesus in place of the sinner’s wretched existence.
Redemption for sinners also required that Christ suffer in our place. Innocent of any sin, our precious Savior took our debt to the cross. Jesus endured the death and hell that we earned for ourselves through disobedience. God requires nothing less. Our proof is the resurrection. Easter demonstrates that God is satisfied with Christ’s work for us. He took our sinful life and gave us His own innocence. Just like Peter, through faith, we receive full pardon at Christ’s expense.