As a review, I wrote a Bible study last spring for some of the women at my church called Hope Rising. I enjoy creating content to foster people’s intimacy with God. Here is the third sampler from that study/guide. If you are going to read it and use it in your own life, be prepared. Be prepared to work and actively engage with scripture. When I say work, I do not mean strive, I mean engage, dig, discover for yourself. In some Bible studies, everything is handed to you on a spoon. The writers and the producers of the studies do most of the digging for you. The questions are pretty straight forward. These kinds of Bible studies teach us and serve us well in certain seasons. But, at some point, you and I are ready to learn to interact with scripture directly ourselves. This is part of why I designed this study the way I did, to encourage and help you do this. Since Jesus died and rose again, the way for direct communion is opened for each of us.
Side note: the pictures below were taken at the Sea of Galilee at the spot believed to be where our scene for today takes place! The location where Jesus cooks breakfast for his disciples after he rises from the dead.
Week Four~The Life-Altering Presence of Jesus
DAY FIVE “The Beauty and Hope of Restoration”
SETTING THE SCENE
There are many passages of scripture I love, for sure! But this just may be my very favorite. I am not sure if it is because I have sinned so much and I have needed restoration so badly, or if it is because I just love Peter so much. Maybe it is because this is how John ends his gospel. It was through John’s gospel that my view of Jesus completely transformed. It was early in motherhood when I lost my footing and I was in danger of losing my mind when Jesus opened my eyes over and over again to his amazing, intimate love for me through the book of John!
And this next scene is the finale of John’s gospel. But the finale is really the beginning of the new covenant, the new relationship that humankind can have with their creator. Restoration is here; God made the way back to him possible.
We find the disciples on the water, doing what they did when Jesus had found many of them in the first place. Peter was a fisherman before he left it all to follow and learn from Jesus. We are not sure of the exact timing of this encounter except that it happened in between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, when Jesus is taken up into heaven before their very eyes.
You will see Peter is the comeback kid. But his comeback did not rest in him. It rested in his living, breathing friend and savior, Jesus. They hadn’t had a conversation that we know of since Peter denied Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested. He knew Jesus knew, and he certainly knew of his failure. This is the conversation after an epic failure. What did this reunion hold? How did it play out? I will give you a hint: there might be a few questions. Jesus and his questions, always leading us to good, although sometimes hard, places.
Read John 21:1-23, taking it in slowly.
This is the last time we are doing this together, friends. Imagine yourself there. Remember to picture sights, sounds, smells, and all the feels. Who do you relate to? What’s going on with them? Take close notice to the conversations and the reactions. To get a glimpse into Jesus like this. To see his guys up close and personal. Please don’t lose the wonder of getting this insider’s look. Imagine yourself on that beach, sitting, walking, and hanging out with Jesus.
OBSERVE THE SCENE
When and where did the scene take place? Who is in the scene? What did each person do? Observe and describe what you see and hear. Notice. Pay attention. Write down any parts that jump out to you.
DEEPER INTO DEFINITIONS
Remember, Greek words from the original text have been translated into the English words in our bibles. Sometimes the words are difficult to translate, or the meaning of the Greek word isn’t fully explained by the English word. Sometimes a look at the original Greek definitions can shed new light on the meaning of the text for us. Here are a few from today’s scene:
“knew/know” (John 21:12, 15, 16, 17) ~eido The original Greek word eido here means: to see, not the mere act of seeing but the actual perception of some object. It is in the sense of to perceive, be aware of, understand.
“truly love” (John 21:15, 16) ~agapao The original Greek word agapao used by Jesus the first two times he asks Peter here means: to esteem, love, indicating a direction of the will and finding one’s joy in something or someone. Agapao is used predominantly for man and woman’s love toward God while phileo is rarely used of it. Agapao indicates a self-sacrificing love.
“love” (John 21:15, 16, 17) ~phileo The original Greek word phileo used by Peter to respond to Jesus and used by Jesus the third time he asked Peter if he loved him here means: to love. It would mean to have the same interests they have. Generally, to have affection for someone. Phileo indicates a brotherly love.
“follow” (John 21:19, 22) ~akoloutheo The original Greek word akoloutheo here means: to attend, to accompany, to go with or follow a teacher.
Considering the meaning of the original Greek words above, what new insights do you have about what happened in the scene?
Read John 10:11-18, Acts 4:23-33, and 1 Peter 5:5-11 . What light do these scriptures shed on the scene?
As you go about your day or night, consider a phrase from the story that strikes you and ask God to give you insight into the meaning.
Take your greatest failure or a current struggle and take it to breakfast with Jesus. He is cooking for you. He has some words for you. Our guide for our Israel-Palestine trip retold the story while we sat on this shore. He said it was like Jesus was saying, “I am restoring you, buddy,” to Peter. In what area of failure or disappointment do you need restoration? There is something beautiful Jesus wants to do with those disappointments, and also with you.
My greatest failure is sexual sin from my past. This is why this passage is so important and life changing to me. God went to the cross, and suffered what he didn’t deserve so I could be forgiven and free. He offered it to me and he offers it to you. The whole story of God coming down as a human, Jesus, culminates here with Peter: restoration of a broken relationship. And what is the conduit for Peter’s transformation; for us? It is through love. Jesus asks us, just like he asks Peter. “Do you truly love me more than these?” Just like Peter, we need it repeated, “Do you truly love me?” And again, as simply as possibly, “Do you love me?” What is our greatest need: a love relationship with the savior of the world. Do you have that? Does your faith move beyond reasoning and facts?
This reminds me of when the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus by asking him what the greatest commandment was. In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees were the influential sect of Jews who were known for their traditional, strict observance of God’s law given through Moses plus their own additional laws. Jesus’ response is quoted from Matthew below.
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [Matthew 22:37-39]
When the Pharisees were trying to test him, Jesus turned the test into an opportunity to drop the mic!
Read the scene from yesterday again slowly. Try reading it out loud especially if you have not ever done this before.
GOD AND HUMANITY REVEALED IN THE STORY
Who is God? (Father, Son, or Holy Spirit) What does this scene reveal about who God is? What’s true about Jesus here? What is he like?
Ask yourself, “Who am I?” What does the scene reveal about us as humans? What is true about you? What are we like?
Who can you relate to in the story? Why?
HOW THE STORY TRANSFORMS YOU
Ask God to reveal to you your beliefs. Not the ones you know or think you are supposed to believe but what you are believing beneath the surface, maybe even subconsciously.
What do you believe about God right now? What do you believe about yourself right now? What do you believe in relation to the text?
Ask God, “What are the lies I believe about you, God? What are the lies I believe about myself? Is there a truth you are revealing to me through this story about you or me?
Sit and listen to God. Wait. Write down any thoughts coming to mind. (This process may continue on throughout the week or longer)
WHERE THE SCENE TAKES YOU
“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.” [1 Thessalonians 1:4-6]
This is for us, as well. We can ask for power and deep conviction as we live our lives following after Jesus. Where do you need power from the Holy Spirit? What are your deep convictions? We follow a risen savior who lived with compassion, truth, and grace. And what else do we see here, joy and suffering together because of the Holy Spirit. How is this possible? What does this mean for you with what you have going on in your life?
Lord, we want our faith to be more than words. Give us power, deep conviction, and joy, that we would imitate your early followers and Jesus. Restore us in the needed places.
Write out a prayer to God in response to what the Spirit is revealing to you. Ask God to do what you cannot, to transform you and make you new…
Is there one thing God is highlighting for you? Is the Spirit leading you to take any action steps or make any changes in your daily life?
My hope and prayer is that this Bible study sampling helps spark and guide your conversations with Jesus. Our God is a God who spoke and is speaking still. But are we taking some moments in our days to sit and be with him and listen? Do we sometimes not know how to converse with Jesus? May these prompts usher you into real, everyday dialogue. Take what works for you and tailor the process for your personality type. Happy conversing!