Do You Love Me? (April 20, 2012)

…Opening To…

Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. (N.T. Wright)

…Listening In…

He asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was sad that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” He replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17; context)

…Filling Up…

Day five of our celebration of the Resurrection brings us to one of the most stirring conversations in the whole Gospel. Jesus and Peter sit on the beach following a nice breakfast of roasted fish. And Jesus asks Peter a question: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter respond, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” With small variations, Jesus and Peter repeat this dialogue two more times. A total of three times Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him. And Peter responds in the affirmative each time. And then Jesus commands him to feed and take care of Jesus’ sheep.

Upon first reading, this is quite the odd passage. Why the threefold question and answer session? Why does Jesus ask Peter such a thing? By the end of the questioning, Peter is hurt because Jesus knows that Peter loves him. Why isn’t Jesus getting it through his head, I head Peter wondering.

What Jesus is doing is slowly sucking poison from a wound. With the threefold question and answer, Jesus renews his relationship with Peter, which Peter had forsaken on the night before the crucifixion. Three times Peter had denied being one of Jesus’ followers. He even went so far as to say, “I am not,” which is the exact opposite thing that Jesus says over and over again in the Gospel: “I am.”

With this dialogue, Jesus washes away the poison that Peter’s denial had sent coursing through Peter’s veins. I can’t imagine how guilty Peter felt about abandoned the one person whom he swore never to abandon. By allowing Peter the chance to say three times how much he loves him, Jesus gives Peter the forgiveness and reconciliation that Peter seeks. And then Jesus gives Peter a mission.

…Praying For…

Dear God, you are always ready to forgive my sins and welcome me with open arms into your fold. Help me to accept your openness as a sign that you are always more ready to reconcile than I am to be reconciled to you. In Jesus Christ’s name I pray. Amen.

…Sending Out…

I leave this moment with you, God, rejoicing that you raised your Son from the dead and showed me that nothing in all of creation can separate me from your love.

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