By Tabi Julius Izza
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. (21:17).
There are several passages in the bible that directly appeal to my emotions, others arousing excitement while others moving me to shedding tears and John 21, the portion where Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves Him is one. Unlike other passages that draws my excitement, this one makes me very emotional, as perhaps it did Peter. Previously Peter had denied Jesus three times, saying, “I don’t know him” and now Jesus makes him affirm his love for Him three times saying, “I love you Lord.” What a contrast!
The day Jesus was arrested, while at supper with his disciples, Jesus had told them that all will abandon him. “Not me, even if it means going to prison, I will go with you” swiftly, Peter responded. Jesus knowing what is to come blatantly told him, “Simon Peter, before the cockcrows, you will deny me three times.” They sung a hymn and departed to the mount of Olives after the supper. Not long after this, deep in the night, Judas Iscariot the betrayer, comes with a garrison of army and Jesus gets arrested, the disciples scattered with only Peter following at a distance.
So far, Jesus’ word that the disciples will abandon him is apparently true, they were gone only God knows where and when they will be reunited with their master.
What happens next? Peter denies Jesus three times saying, “I don’t know him” as predicted by Jesus. As soon as the roaster crowed, Peter turned around and his eyes matched with that of Jesus, straightforwardly he remembered Jesus’ words, and wept bitterly. What an experience to have? Deny your master whom you have promised never to leave?
Despite his denial of Jesus, Peter in his human strength tried his best to keep his words of never leaving Jesus. Wasn’t it him who quickly pulled a sword and cut off one the servant’s ear as they attempted to arrest Jesus? When others (the disciples) ran away as soon as Jesus was arrested, who remained following Jesus up to the courtyard? For sure it was Peter, he tried his best, the flesh failed him, but Christ would not, for he was just human.
The story hasn’t ended; it continues days after Jesus resurrected. Interestingly, it looked Jesus though has shown himself to the disciples that he was risen, even making Thomas touch his wounds proving that he was alive had not yet laid an agenda before the disciples. Jesus only appeared a few times and left them, what is the next business? At the lead of Peter, about seven of the disciples decided to go back fishing, a career most of them were in for before they were called to be fishers of men. However, to Jesus, the journey with his disciples is not yet ended, he still wants them, he still wants to commission them continue with the mission; so he decided to follow them to the lakeside.
After fishing, they had a meal together in which Jesus cross examined Peter asking him three times whether he loved Him. About a week or so before, Peter three times denied Jesus, what will he do now? “Simon son of John, do you really love me?” Jesus asks him three times. The third time, Peter sensed this was unusual, he probably remembered his denial of the same man who is now asking whether he loves him. Peter weeps and says “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.”
It is from here that we can see Jesus knows Peter more than Peter knows himself. He knows Peter’s weaknesses as well as Peter’s strength. He knows what Peter can do for him despite having denied him three times for fear of his life. It must be known to us that just as God told Jeremiah, “I knew you before you were born, and before you were formed in your mothers’ womb,” none of us is unknown to the Lord.
More so, it is interesting to see Christ who initially at Peter’s call told him he shall be fisher of men and no longer fishing in the lake, was very patient with Peter even when he denies him, and again leading about half of the disciples back to the exact opposite of what they were called to do. Jesus had to ground a foundation upon which Peter will stand and never to make a U-turn again by making him affirm his love three times. God is not willing to make our past mistakes count as long as we can recommit to him, if he was, then no one will be found worthy; instead he is willing to use us, he only wants us to say “yes Lord, I love you.”
Do you love the Lord?