Lent 2023 Day 40: Sat 8 Apr
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’
Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’
The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.
Peter may have been there at Jesus’ crucifixion, but he was the failure who couldn’t even admit to being associated with Jesus.
Spoiler alert: Jesus is risen! In this beautiful passage from John’s gospel we have a rather cryptic conversation that Jesus initiates with Peter. Jesus asks the churned-up Peter (wouldn’t you be?) if he loves him. Jesus shakes the churn a little more by asking him the same question three times over.
Peter does not give a direct answer. Jesus knows the answer already, Peter tells him. Now, is that a more positive answer than a plain “yes”? You decide.
We don’t know how long the gap was between Jesus’ questions. Those who read the words in a service may run straight through the narrative without daring to recreate anything more than a short pause. I’d like to think that there was space between the questions, space in which Peter could ponder Jesus’ responses. Feed my lambs; take care of my sheep; feed my sheep.
Jesus is commissioning Peter, but we might note that Jesus uses the name Simon, which does not have the association that the name Peter has with Rock, being the foundation on which Jesus would build his Church.
Why did Jesus bring Peter to an emotional state? I don’t think that Jesus needed to be sure, that’s for sure. When we say we love someone we can mean different things for different people. You can love a spouse and someone else’s spouse, but hopefully not in the same way.
What does it mean to love Jesus, the man who lives in us by his Holy Spirit? We can’t hug Jesus, but we can invite him into every aspect of our being, to share in our joys and sorrows, our hopes and aspirations. He is a partner in what we do, a companion on the way, a present help in trouble, a shelter from the storm, a hand to guide, an arm to save, a shoulder to lean and cry on. Can this love even have an emotional element? Why not? It’s a funny sort of love that does not jiggle your giblets.
We often talk of his footsteps alongside us in the past. Where are they today?
Describe how much you love Jesus. Tell him.
What has Jesus commissioned you for?
Lord Jesus, I know you died on the cross for my sins. I know you were raised to life to give me eternal life. Come live in me and bring me close to you that I may know you more nearly and love you more dearly. Amen.
Come, all you unfaithful (Good any time of the year)