Did you ever desire to have a serious talk with someone, but lacked the courage to get at the real problem you wanted to discuss? You talked around the subject that needed to be discussed. When the conversation ended, nothing had been accomplished.
I recall a luncheon recently where a gentleman wanted to visit with me. We had been at the table for an hour, and I was trying to figure out what was on the man’s mind. Finally I said, “Please tell me what you want to discuss with me.” That broke the ice and we had a meaningful conversation.
Perhaps I have described a situation in your life. There is something you need to talk about with someone near and dear to you. You hesitate because of the negative response you might get and finally conclude that it is not worth it. This is not healthy. If the person is very close to you, it helps to get the agenda on the table and discuss what is bothering you.
This is exactly what Jesus did one day with the Apostle Peter as they sat on the shores of Lake Tiberias.
Peter’s conscience was killing him. In his last conversation with Jesus, the Lord had said, “You will all fall away on account of me.” (Matthew 26:31) Peter’s response was, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (33) You know the rest of the story. That night when Jesus needed him the most, Peter denied three times that he knew Him. Then came Jesus’ trial, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. Why did I deny Him? That was Peter’s agonizing question. He had seen Jesus several times since the resurrection, but there was never an opportunity to discuss his sin with the Lord.
Then came the morning when Jesus broke the ice. They had finished breakfast and Jesus asked Peter the question, “Peter, do you love me more than these?” With those words Jesus made it easier for Peter to get on with what was bothering him. Why did Jesus ask the question? Because Peter had inferred that his love for Jesus was greater than that of the other apostles. They might all leave you, but you can count of me, Lord. I am true to my word. You can be sure that Peter had tortured himself with questions like, do I really love Him? He would then comfort himself by saying, Of course I do. Then another question would come to mind: Was my love for Him only verbal? Why didn’t I show my love by confessing I was one of His? Then he might have become philosophical and ask, what is love, anyway? Try as hard as he could, Peter had no answers explaining his action that would bring any kind of peace to his soul.
The writer of Hebrews says, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (4:12-13). You can be sure Peter knew the meaning of those words after Jesus had finished His conversation that day. There were no more games. Down came the defenses. Away with the excuses. Christ was confronting Peter with his sin.
God’s Word is confrontational and that is a primary reason why it is often offensive to many people. We do not appreciate being confronted with our sins. One of the temptations facing the Church in our day is to be true to God’s Word. If we want the congregation to grow numerically, we are tempted to learn how to entertain the congregation. Present a soothing message for twenty minutes and send people home feeling good. They will be back next week to learn what wonderful people they are. In our day people seek pleasure and entertainment. If the Church can fit into this demand from the general public and entertain people with appealing music and comforting thoughts, it will be the church of the day, but only for that day. The truth is that Jesus did not minister to people this way. He first confronted them with their sins, and then He shared the Gospel with them.
Returning to our text, Jesus did bring peace to Peter’s soul when He said to him, “Peter, go out and feed my sheep.” With those words, Jesus conveyed the message that once you thought you could be my witness on your own strength. Now you know better. I forgive you. Go and tell the world how I forgave you and that I am anxious to forgive all people who will come to me. And that is what Peter did until his dying day.
On Pentecost Sunday, Peter was preaching the Gospel to the crowds assembled in Jerusalem. That day three thousand people received Christ and were baptized as believers. A few days after that Peter and John were telling the rulers in Jerusalem about Jesus. When they were told not to mention Christ’s name again, they fearlessly said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19) Quite a different Peter, wasn’t he? This is what Jesus can do for people.
After we have our time with Jesus, there is a peace in our soul which passes all understanding. As He met Peter by the sea, so He meets us in His Word. There He breaks the ice and confronts us with our sins only to deliver the wonderful message that, through faith in Him, our sins are forgiven. Then all is well between our Heavenly Father and us.