"Thou Art … Thou Shalt Be"

Certainly Simon Peter would never forget his introduction to the Lord Jesus as recorded in John 1. It is not difficult to visualize him coming in his eagerness with his more prosaic brother, full of questions, but suddenly arrested and silenced by the dignity and power of the Lord. Of course it was right and fitting that the Lord should speak first and that, as far as we know, Simon had no answer to His words. No wonder he had no answer, the words of the Lord were so strange, and of such authority and so final that question and doubt were out of place. Simon had never been spoken to in such a way before.

"Thou art Simon" — then the Lord knew him, and what he was, though they had never met before. "Thou shalt be" — then He was able also to foretell the future. Who could do these two things but God? Years afterwards Simon had to confess to the Lord, "Thou knowest all things." His first experience of that was at this first interview. And who had the right to change his name? — but He who had the right to claim him altogether, and had the power to change his whole character and destiny.

"Thou art Simon the son of Jona" — that was what he was by natural birth. "Thou shalt be called Cephas" — that is what he was to be as born of God. "Thou art — ." What was he? Well, certainly he was excitable, mercurial, and in all probability fickle, "Thou shalt be called Cephas — ." What was that? A stone, stable, settled, immoveable. "Thou art — ." What was he? Profane, a swearer, inclined to quickness of speech and even lying. "Thou shalt be — ." What? A stone for God's spiritual house, having part in God's holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. What a change!

Who could bring all this about? Only the One in whom was divine creative power, the Saviour and life-giver, and Simon had come into contact with Him, never to be the same again for ever. I should call that designation. At that first interview the Lord revealed His ultimate purpose to Simon and designated him to his great destiny.

There can be little doubt that the second interview is that recorded in Mark 1. "Now as He walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said to them, Come ye after Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men." Simon was no loiterer but a hard working man; the living of his family which included his mother-in-law depended upon his labours. I do not think that a lazy man would have had much peace in his home. But now a greater claim than that of his family confronts him. The One who had given him a new name claims him and commands him.

What shall he do? I am sure that he did not understand the full significance of the call, but he did not hesitate. He admitted the claim and abandoned all that his living depended upon and followed the Lord But who is He whose claim is thus paramount, that must come before wife and children and home and self? God alone has that right. In this second interview the divine authority of the Lord appears, and I should call it submission. Simon bowed to the rights of the Lord over him.

The third interview seems to be that given in Luke 5. Simon is back at his boat. That may be a little difficult to understand, but it seems to have needed this third interview to wholly separate him from his former life, and it had its place in the gracious ways of the Lord with him. Simon had owned the Lord's claim over him and consequently He had a right to all that Simon possessed, and now He appropriates his boat and makes it His pulpit from which to teach the people. When he had finished His discourse, He showed that He would be no man's debtor, and just as when Simon followed Him at first, He healed his mother-in-law, which was a great compensation and blessing, so now He gives to Simon such a catch of fish as he had never even dreamed of taking. It was a divine intervention and Simon felt and acknowledged that he was in the presence of the Lord, the Creator. There is no doubt as to that, and the effect of it is such, that he falls down before Him, and cries, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

I have often pondered those words and wondered what Simon's thoughts really were. Of course he did not want the Lord to go away, yet he felt his unfitness for His presence. I have wondered if at that time he remembered the Lord's first words to him, and feeling that they meant something very great, and realizing his utter sinfulness, and perhaps his neglect of the Lord's earlier call, he means, "It is no use, Lord, I am so sinful such impossible material, you can make nothing of me, leave me to myself." It may be so, and if Simon was anything like me and you, such a thought must at some time have passed through his mind.

"And Jesus said to Simon. Fear not." That means, "It is not what you are Simon, but what I am; not what you can be to Me, but what I can be to you; not your efforts, but my grace." He added, "From henceforth thou shalt catch men." Let a man but own the truth as to himself, and the Lord does the rest. No wonder Peter wrote afterwards of the true grace of God. I should call this third interview conviction and commission. From this time Peter became the constant companion of the Lord and the chief spokesman for his brethren.

The Lord's service on earth was now nearing its end. He had done great works among the people, and spoken gracious words to them, and the time had come for a response if there was to be any. So the Lord asked His disciples what men were saying about Him, as recorded in Matthew 16. They were saying many things, but none of them right. These disciples of His, they too had to be tested and so the challenge comes to them, "But whom say ye that I am?" And Simon Peter — the Peter in him was beginning to show itself — "And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." Certainly Simon had advanced in true knowledge, but it was not his own intelligence, nor was it by sitting at the feet of the doctors of the law. The Father in heaven had taken him in hand and had revealed the truth as to His beloved Son to him. What wonderful grace is this; and it is just as true of everyone of us, who has believed and owned the truth as to the Lord Jesus, that the Father has enlightened us: it is His work.

What joy must have been in the heart of the Lord as He answered Simon, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to thee, but My Father which is in heaven. And I say also to thee, That thou art Peter." No longer, thou shalt be, but "thou art Peter." The truth was in his soul as light and substance, he was established in it by the Father's teaching and grace; he was attached to the Lord in his resurrection title, and was soon to take his place as a living stone that had come to the living Stone, chosen of God and precious. This incident in Matthew's Gospel is revelation. It is the Father's answer to the Lord's choice; His seal upon the Lord's words, at His first interview with Simon — "Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone."

John gives divine choice; Mark, divine authority; Luke, divine grace; Matthew, divine teaching.

Simon Peter was the only one of the twelve to whom the Lord gave a new name as indicative of his future, and no doubt Satan made a special note of that, and watched him more than any of the other disciples. But he does not seem to have found an opening with him until the Father gave him that wonderful revelation as to who His beloved Son was, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona," said the Lord, "and I say also to thee, that thou art Peter." "Yes," Satan seems to answer, "we will see about that!"

Was Peter puffed up because of this great distinction bestowed on him? It would seem so, for otherwise Satan would have had no advantage. We remember it was when Paul had received great revelations from heaven that he needed a thorn in the flesh lest he should be exalted above measure. And Satan took a hand in that, for the thorn was Satan's messenger to buffet him. Simon Peter was elated; he was neither watchful nor sober. We can almost feel the sob that broke from him as be remembered it, and wrote to his younger brethren, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

The cross was before the Lord. He could not build His church until He had passed through the sorrows and suffering of death, and overthrown its power in resurrection, and of these sufferings He spoke. And "Peter took Him, and rebuked Him, saying, Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be to Thee." Simon did not know that it was Satan who put that thought in his mind and made him blurt it out, but so it was. The man who had uttered God's revelation actually became within an hour the mouthpiece of Satan. And if Simon, so highly favoured, fell so soon through unwatchfulness and pride of heart, what need there is for us to be sober and vigilant. We realize, as we consider it, the need of the exhortation that he gives us.

The Lord knew from whence the attack came and exposed it. He turned, and said to Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence to Me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men." The latter half of that saying was probably for Peter very specially. He had not learnt then that the way, the only way, of glory to God and blessing for men was by the suffering of the cross. He learnt it, afterwards, so that his Epistles are full of the necessity and the glory of suffering. Mark tells us that it was when the Lord "looked on His disciples" that He rebuked Peter. What a look of love and pity that must have been! How could they be saved if He did not suffer? He was going to the cross for them and for us. He looked upon them, and upon us in our need and died for them and us, that He might yet look upon us in His Father's House, made fit by His blood and grace for that glorious place. With what self-judgment of himself and adoration for the Lord must Simon have considered it all afterwards! How thankful he must have been that the Lord was strong where he was weak, and wise and watchful where he was foolish and off his guard.

But Satan would not accept defeat at one rebuff. It seemed as though a special conflict was to be waged for the soul of Simon; the Lord who had chosen him on the one hand and Satan the adversary on the other; and Simon, alas, playing into Satan's hands. He was a boastful man, and seems to have paid no heed to the warnings of his Lord. Self-confidence was his undoing, and would have been his damnation if the Lord had not been greater than Satan. We have often sat in thought in the Supper Chamber and wondered that Simon was so little affected by the Lord's words to him, "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:31-32). What a mercy it was for Peter, and is for us, that the Lord is always ahead of the devil: no matter how often the devil has got ahead of the failing saints, he has never yet forestalled the Lord. If Simon had been a wise man and not so full of what Simon was able to do, he would have cast himself at the feet of the Lord, and cried, "Preserve me, O Lord, for in Thee do I put my trust." But instead he answered, "Lord, I am ready." — If the devil ever laughs, he must have laughed then — "I am ready to go with Thee both into prison, and to death."

The sad sequel is well-known. To show how strong and brave he was, he drew a sword to defend the Lord against His foes in the garden, and after striking one blow, fled away panic-stricken, and afterwards denied that ever he knew the Lord, with oaths and curses. What now? "Thou art … thou shalt be!" Did it not look as though all the Lord's teaching and training had been in vain, and the "thou shalt be" was as far off as ever, and a thing utterly unattainable, since Simon apparently still remained what he was, impossible material? "And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter" (Luke 22:61). Think of that, and at such a time! "And Peter went out and wept bitterly." Think of that!

All that the Lord had warned His disciples of had come to pass, and what days of darkness those must have been. The long night when He was in the hands of His enemies, buffeted, spit upon, scourged, and the more terrible day that followed when He was delivered into the hands of the Gentiles and crucified, and then that day — a sabbath day — in which He lay in the rock-hewn tomb! Who can tell the agony of darkness that those men and women endured, and Simon most and worst of all. But the first day of the week came at last and all was changed!

The women were the first at that tomb and what joy met them there. The tomb was empty, the Lord was risen, and He had not forgotten them. He was not there, but He had delegated a servant of His, a young man, not girded for conflict but clothed in a long white garment, and He had instructed him to say to the women "Go your way, tell his disciples and Peter" (Mark 16:7). The Lord knew the men He had chosen. He knew that Peter would hold aloof from his brethren, miserable and conscience-stricken, and He knew too, that they would hold him aloof because of his terrible fall, and so he was specially named. The Lord had not given him up, nor will He ever give up one of "His own." Every thought of His heart for them will be infallibly fulfilled.

But Peter would need more than a message delivered through an angel and the women; everyone who has ever known what it is to backslide from the Lord will understand how keenly he would long to have a personal interview with the Lord. Nothing would satisfy him but that, and those of us who have learnt the tenderness of the Lord's love, for even the most failing of His saints will know that nothing would satisfy the Lord's heart but that. And so it turned out. The Lord knew where Peter wept out his repentance and He appeared to him. It filled the other disciples with wonder. His resurrection was a wonder — a joyful wonder. So they came together saying, "The Lord is risen indeed." But just as wonderful — "He has appeared to Simon."

The two wonders will be joined together for ever — His greatness and His grace. We know not which to glory in the most, so we will still bind them together. He is great enough to meet the greatest foe that could assail us from outside and His grace is equal to the greatest failure that could arise inside. "The Lord is risen indeed and has appeared to Simon."

We are not told where Simon went when he fled from the High Priest's kitchen, after his thrice repeated denial of the Lord, but we may imagine the state of his mind. All the hopes of what he might have been, that had been raised in his heart by the Lord's first words to him, would now be thoroughly dashed. His case was hopeless. And after three and a half years! And three times too! Why had he not fled when the cock crew the first time? That cock-crowing he would never forget! "Thou art" — yes, he knew that now only too well: he was indeed Simon — unreliable, fickle, boastful yet a coward, and a denier of his Lord when He needed him most. "Thou shalt be." Never! That was no longer possible; all that had disappeared as a bright dream at this terrible awakening of the dreamer, leaving bitter disappointment behind, and deepening the darkness of his soul. He had meant to fight, but the power of the devil had been too great for him: he was beaten. "Thou art." Yes.

"I am battered and broken, and weary and out of heart;
… I am I. —
What wouldst Thou make of me?"

And yet, the Lord had "turned and looked upon Peter." Would he ever forget that look? Never! As he bowed himself in the fierce agony of his repentance, that look would be a memory more vivid than the cock-crowing, a ray of light in his darkness, for it was a look not of anger, nor even of reproach but of tenderest pity. Judas had gone out and hanged himself, should he do the same? No, the devil could not drive him so far; he was preserved through that awful soul struggle by the Lord's intercession and by that look.

The fact is that Simon was to be the outstanding witness to the triumph of patient, persevering grace. He was to be the vessel chosen of God to write of the true grace of God in which every Christian stands; and of this he had to write, not only as inspired by the Holy Spirit, but out of his own experience. His words were to be infallible words because Holy-Ghost-given, but he was to be able to say as he wrote them, I know the truth of them in my soul's history. Hence it was that Simon had to learn his need of grace by his sin, and the greatness of the grace, that he needed, in that look that revealed the love that would not let him go.

And he was the first of His eleven disciples that the Lord sought out on the resurrection day — not that the Lord loved him more than the others, He did not, but Simon's was the greatest need — poor broken-hearted, conscience-stricken Simon, and the greatest need received the first attentions. We are not told what took place at that interview; it probably could not be told; it is enough for us to know that the Lord appeared to Simon, and at that interview so restored and strengthened his faith, and set his heart so completely at rest, that he was able to join his brethren in the evening of the day, when the Lord stood in the midst of them. "Thou shalt be" was taken up in resurrection, and Peter's eyes were turned away from his terrible past, for it was all forgiven, to the goal of the Lord's purpose for him.

This most wonderful grace was not shown to Peter to make us think little of his sin or of our own, but to show us that where sin abounded grace did much more abound, and to show us that His grace will never fail; our whole hope lies not in what we are or can do but in what our Lord is.

Now grace first chooses its object, and in so doing shows its sovereignty; then it declares the destiny of the chosen one, showing its fore-knowledge; then it sets to work to bring the object of its choice into full conformity with the great destiny, and in doing this it brings to light its inexhaustible resources. It looks for no merit in its object, and does not use any material that it finds in it; it acts from itself, and brings forth its own riches of wisdom and patience and power. And this was the lesson that Simon had to learn, that he might teach it to us. He had to learn that Simon was not to be trusted, but that nothing could turn grace from its purpose. He had to learn that nothing could change the feelings of the Lord to him, not even his own base conduct. Having loved His own which were in the world He loved them to the end, and not "one of them is lost," and Simon was one of these, chosen, designated and kept for the day of glory.

And you are one of these, young believer — "His own." What comfort, what encouragement this gives. Yet it may be you are discouraged, sorely discouraged. You have glimpsed the "thou shalt be" and it has stirred the holiest emotions of your soul, but the "thou art" has cast you down, and brought you almost to despair.

"Oh, the regret, the struggle and the failing!
Oh, the days desolate and useless years!
Vows in the night so fierce and unavailing
Stings of my shame and passion of my tears!"

Do you realize in your soul's deep exercise that the Lord looks upon you with the same tenderness with which He looked on Peter. And that He has prayed for you as effectually as He prayed for him? Do you know that He knew all you are before He called you? "Thou art" was as truly known to Him about you as it was about Simon, and yet He chose you in His sovereign grace, and designated you to a glorious destiny, and His grace will bring you into full conformity with His purpose for you. Be confident of this very thing, that good work He has begun in you He will complete, and grace begun shall end in glory.

How great is our Lord! He has risen up above the power of death and ever lives to make intercession for us; how gracious He is, no failure on our part can change Him. He appeared to Simon, and in the same wonderful grace He desires always to show Himself to you and to me.

It was right that Simon and his brethren should be in Galilee, for the Lord had told them that He would meet them there. But for a wise purpose, which I think unfolds as the story is told, He had kept them waiting. This waiting time was the testing time, and Simon, the old Simon, could not stand the test: he did not like to be kept waiting.

Years before, he and his brother and the sons of Zebedee had forsaken their nets at the word of their Lord, but someone had taken care of them and carefully stored them away, and perhaps while rummaging about on an idle day. Simon had discovered them and the love of his old calling came strong upon him. Then there was his wife and may be several healthy children, and his mother-in-law — certainly there was his mother-in-law, who possibly had never agreed to his giving up his lucrative toil and following a penniless Master — they must live, he could not see them wanting bread: and the Lord had not appeared as they had hoped. Out with the nets. "I go a fishing." Ah, Simon, "Thou art Simon!" His brethren were caught in the same mood, and seven of them launched their boat and spread their sails and cast their nets, "and that night they caught nothing."

I do not suppose that they had lost their old skill with the nets, or that the fish were less numerous than before. I think we must recognise the fact that the Lord was behind the scenes, the Lord of land and sea. We read "on this wise showed He Himself to them," and this night of useless toil was a necessary background for this showing. He controls the circumstances of His chosen servants, and He controlled the fish that night. He had not given up Simon, even though Simon seemed to have abandoned his commission and drifted bark to his old life. "Thou shalt be" was still the Lord 's purpose for him and in the journey from "Thou art" to "thou shalt be" he had to learn wholly to trust his Lord.

"But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore." Who can tell the compassion with which He looked upon those seven men, and Simon in particular. He had died for them to make them His own, and His purpose was to change them all from their native instability and distrust of God, into men who would face foes and death for His sake and never doubt Him again. So His voice sounded over the water. "Children." It was a term of endearment, such as He might have used to a band of irresponsible lads. "Children, have ye any meat? They answered Him. No. And He said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes." If His servants needed food, He had but to speak the word and the fish of the sea hastened to obey their Creator, and this was the truth that the Lord would teach these men.

"That disciple whom Jesus loved says to Peter, it is the Lord." Who else could act and speak like that! Who else could mingle infinite compassion and almighty power in the same voice but He? "It is the Lord." They had to learn the meaning of that great title, and we need to understand it too. Neither Simon nor we can be what He would make us unless we come under His Lordship, His authority, His administration. It is as our Lord that He moulds us to His gracious will, and on our part that surely means subjection to Him.

It is good to see Simon Peter's eagerness to reach the presence of his Lord; he was a forgiven man, and "blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven and whose sin is covered." It is the grace that forgives that bows the heart in grateful adoration at the Lord's feet. Simon had been forgiven much and "to whom much is forgiven the same loves much." And there is good hope for the man who eagerly seeks and truly loves the presence of the Lord, for it is in His presence that the transforming work goes on.

Every detail in the record is deeply interesting and instructive. The Lord was showing Himself to His disciples, and they would never forget the way He did it. He had gathered the charcoal and lit a fire for them, for the night winds had been cold on the lake. He had gathered fish and bread and prepared their breakfast, for the night's cold had sharpened their appetites: He banished all their fear of Him by His tender words "Come and dine" and made them perfectly at home by waiting on them. He was their servant. It is as clear as can be that He wanted them to understand that death and resurrection had not changed Him. He had said to them on the night before His crucifixion, "I am among you as he that serves." Many times He had been up before them and prepared their breakfast; He was still their servant. Considering them, anticipating their needs and providing abundantly for them. The whole town of Tiberias would benefit by that morning's great catch for those one hundred and fifty-three great fishes would be duly distributed, but they, His brethren, His disciples, feasted with Him and were served by Him. Thus He showed Himself to them, and the record of it is given that we might believe, and blessed is he that has not seen yet has believed.

So when they had dined, their needs all graciously and fully met, "Jesus says to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?" The Lord called him by his own natural name. He seemed to go back to the very beginning to show Simon that what he was naturally was no fit material for what he was to be. It was Simon's confidence in himself that had been the cause of all the trouble, that was the root that had to be dragged into the light and discerned and judged. Simon, the son of Jonas, had boasted that though all forsook the Lord he would stand by Him, and Simon, the son of Jonas, had thrice denied that he ever knew Him. For his own sake, for his brethren's sake, and for ours, the Lord did spare him. Three times the sharp knife probed right down to the spring of evil within him, but the hand that used the knife was moved by a heart that loved too well to allow His servant to continue in a false way, and He knew well how to heal the wound. Simon reached the full judgment of himself when he cried "Lord, Thou knowest all things: Thou knowest that I love Thee." How good it is that we have to do with One who knows all things.

Simon's commission was publicly restored to him and confirmed. The Lord could trust the man who at last distrusted himself: He could trust him with that which is most precious to Him on earth. His lambs and His sheep — His flock, for which He gave His life. And the Lord assured him that His purpose for him would not fail, and that his own desires should be realized. He would honour his Lord and be honoured himself with a martyr's death. Yet he needed that word. "Follow Me." Only as he travelled with the Lord would he be safe; only in his Master's company, and dependent upon Him, would he be preserved from Simon the son of Jonas. And what was true in him is true for us.

"With foes and snares around us
  And lusts and fears within
The grace that sought and found us
  Alone can keep us clean."

The restoration of Simon Peter to full communion with his Master, and the renewal and extension of his commission, is full of instruction, and opens up a view of the Lord that appeals to the heart. Simon had to learn that what he was — "thou art" — could only hinder the Lord and mar whatever service he could do for Him. His confidence in himself had to be broken, and be delivered from Simon. So strong was his belief in himself that there was only one way by which this could be effected, and that was by a great and surprising fall. So Satan's desire to have him and sift him was granted, and he did the sifting thoroughly.

Never could he have had a greater hope of frustrating the Lord's intentions than when he took Simon in hand, but the intercession of the Lord was ahead of him, and more powerful to preserve the faith of Simon than Satan's efforts to destroy it. Let us be greatly encouraged as we consider it, for the Lord's love and care for us are not less than they were for Simon. The result of Satan's activities was that the chaff of Simon's self-confidence disappeared and the wheat of his faith remained; yet what faith remained must have been feeble, and he a broken and discouraged man. Nothing could avail for him and strengthen his faith, so that the "thou shalt be" might become a reality, and that he might be Cephas — a rock, but fresh revelations of the Lord to his soul.

How wonderful was the Lord's way with him. He was his first thought on the resurrection morning, and the only one of the disciples to be distinguished by name. When the women arrived at the grave of the Lord they found a young man sitting there in white garments — an angel from heaven. He was waiting for them to give them a special message. "Go your way," said he, "and tell His disciples and Peter." We are sure that Simon felt that he had forfeited all right to be called a disciple and in this it is probable that his brethren agreed with him, but he was still Peter. On this glorious resurrection morning, it was not his failure but the Lord's purpose that rang out in the angel's words. But what could be the full meaning of the angel's words? What did he know about Peter? Angels are but messengers, that is what "angel" means; they do not act on their own initiative, they obey the commands of the Lord. Then He must have instructed this young man in white to distinguish Peter in this way. Most certainly, and the message must have been to him like the first flush of dawn after a long and dreary night.

The angels of the Lord care for the disciples of the Lord, they are evidently interested in them by name, in Simon and in you and me. I have no doubt that they marvel at the love of their Lord for such as we are, and are amazed that we should ever turn from Him to other things, and backslide, which, alas, we are so prone to do. Great lessons they must also learn of His grace as He heals the backsliding and restores the penitent to the joy of His salvation. The master of a great house may have thoughts and interests of which his servants know nothing, but if a child of the house is dangerously ill, or has strayed away from home, then if they are true servants and the master a true master they are all deeply concerned. So I believe it is with the Lord and His angels, they are affected by the Lord's interest in His own.

The message of the angel and Lord's own secret interview with Simon had restored his confidence in the Lord; he knew that he was forgiven, his sin had been blotted out, but something more was needed. The word speaks of forgiveness on confession, but it also speaks of His "being faithful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Simon's self-confidence was unrighteousness, the root of his failure, and with this the Lord had to deal. It was His words that brought about this cleansing.

The Lord did not speak of Simon's denial, that was a closed chapter, closed by the Lord and never to be opened by Him again, but He did scratch into the very depths of his heart. The thrice repeated question, "Lovest thou Me" was needed, and Peter, brought at last to the end of his boasting and to a true judgment of himself, finds relief in the Lord's omniscience and grace. "Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee."

"Lovest thou Me" was the supreme question for Simon, and is for us all. Whatever else there may be, if this is wanting, all is wrong. "I have against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" were the Lord's stern words to a church that in all outward respects seemed to be a pattern to others. "Remember … and repent." His love is a precious love: He can brook no rival. "If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Luke 1:6). It was really self-love that had been Simon's undoing. What a splendid man he had been in his own eyes; what devotion to his Lord, with courage surpassing all his brethren! But now all that lay in the dust, and Simon would have nothing hidden, he was consciously in the presence of Omniscience and cast himself wholly on the Lord.

And now the "thou shalt be" comes fully into view; the Lord can trust him. He can trust him with that for which He had laid down His life, so precious is it to Him, His one flock. Peter's commission is extended and increased in its responsibility and privilege as the Lord says to him, "Feed My lambs," "Tend My sheep," "Feed My sheep" (or little sheep, a term of endearment). How well, in dependence upon his Lord, Peter carried out this commission: we have only to read his Epistles in the light of this most moving interview to realize that he never forgot it, that it was ever in his mind.

But the Lord had another honour to bestow on His restored disciple, who had sincerely wished to die for his Lord; that desire should be realized. He had failed when he had attempted to follow the Lord in the energy of his own will; but when thoroughly conscious of his own incompetence to do or to be, he should both do and be, and he should die for the Lord, not for the glory of Peter, but for the glory of God.

These things are written of Simon Peter for our learning; they, are written to teach us that not in our own strength and self-sufficiency can we arrive at the Lord's purpose for us, but by distrust of self and dependence on the Lord and by the constraint of His love alone.