By Chaplain Mike
We are marking the Great Fifty Days of Easter with a series of devotional thoughts on the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Today we look further at John’s story of Jesus’ resurrection appearance to the disciples on the shore of Lake Tiberias, with its special emphasis on Peter, from John 21:1-14 (Phillips).
21:15 – When they had finished breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others?” “Yes, Lord,” he replied, “you know that I am your friend.”
21:16 – “Then feed my lambs,” returned Jesus. Then he said for the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord,” returned Peter. “You know that I am your friend.”
21:17 – “Then care for my sheep,” replied Jesus. Then for the third time, Jesus spoke to him and said, “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” Peter was deeply hurt because Jesus’ third question to him was “Are you my friend?”, and he said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend!”
21:18 – “Then feed my sheep,” Jesus said to him. “I tell you truly, Peter, that when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you liked, but when you are an old man, you are going to stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and take you where you do not want to go.”
21:19 – (He said this to show the kind of death – by crucifixion – by which Peter was going to honour God.) Then Jesus said to him, “You must follow me.”
21:20-21 – Then Peter turned round and noticed the disciple whom Jesus loved following behind them. (He was the one who had his head on Jesus’ shoulder at supper and had asked, “Lord, who is the one who is going to betray you?”) So he said, “Yes, Lord, but what about him?
21:22 – “If it is my wish,” returned Jesus, “for him to stay until I come, is that your business, Peter? You must follow me.”
21:23 – This gave rise to the saying among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet, of course, Jesus did not say, “He will not die,”, but simply, “If it is my wish for him to stay until I come, is that your business?”
21:24-25 – Now it is this same disciple who is hereby giving his testimony to these things and has written them down. We know that his witness is reliable. Of course, there are many other things which Jesus did, and I suppose that if each one were written down in detail, there would not be room in the whole world for all the books that would have to be written.
After sharing a meal with his disciples, the risen Lord Jesus turned to one of them, Peter, and had a conversation that has long caught the imagination of those who have struggled and failed in their faith and long to hear the word of restoration.
One key characteristic in this conversation is the difference in the word for “love,” which is brought out by J.B. Phillips in his translation above (“Do you love me?” vs. “I am your friend”). Though some scholars think the variations are merely stylistic, they may indicate more than that, at the very least the complex nature of the love between Jesus and Peter.
Three times the denials flew: “I don’t know him!”
Three times the questions come: “Do you love me?”
Twice the question is framed in terms of love.
Twice it is answered with a hesitant replyâ€”“Yes, I’m your friend.”
The third time, the Savior condescends to where the sinner isâ€”“Are you really my friend?”
Grieved that he cannot at this point offer his Messiah the fullness of love, the sinner replies, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I am your friend!”
With each question and response, a reaffirmation that God has still chosen this weak one to be his shepherd, to care for others who also find themselves in sin: “Feed my lambs, care for my sheep, feed my sheep.”
And then a look at Peter’s future, with a cruciform ending like that of the Savior he represents. And the challenge: “You must follow me.” No matter the failures of the past. No matter the prospects of the cross which lie ahead. No matter what God’s will may be for others (see verses 20-23). Follow me.
You must follow me.
The world behind me, the cross before me
No turning back, no turning back.
Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep me, I pray, from all things that may hurt me, that I, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with a free heart those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
(Prayer appointed for the week from The Divine Hours)