in pursuit of critical and compassionate living and thought. in surrender to courage & delight of Christ.
They had just started the fire for breakfast, when interrupting his duty and distraction of poking the coals, Jesus asked him,
“Peter, do you love me?”
Three times he asked.
Three times he used his name. Three times he asked, the same three times he said, “Peter, I know you by name.“ Three times he asked, three times he told him, “Peter, I call you out by name.” Three times he asked, three times he urged, “Peter, I know you.”
“Peter, do you love me?” Of course! Peter replied with haste. His haste betrayed his heart of what Jesus already knew – the thought “How could we not?” “How could I not?” But Jesus knew what Peter only thought he did.
“Peter, do you love me?” he asked. In this moment, I am not asking everyone, I am asking you. And I am not asking you in private, I ask you here, in front of everyone. Everyone you know, and everyone you do not. For this is where you will find out. This is personal. This is public. Peter, do you love me? Here, now? In asking you I am telling you – you will be hated for as much. I am asking you because it is not obvious, it is not natural, it is not popular. And so I do not ask like it is due me, or expected; it is not impersonal, and it will never be private. Here, now, where we dine with those who betray me and what I love. If you do love me, Peter, it is because you know I am here, now and say, “Peter, I love you. I am telling you – here, I am hated, and I would not ask you Peter, if I did not care, if I did not love you first: Peter, do you love me?
“Peter, do you love me?” he asked. This second time Peter felt confused, and slighted. How could he think I don’t love him? I have left everything for him. And he answered quickly, even though while Jesus looked at him, he knew he could not fully understand the look in his eyes. Love he did not know. Peter, you do not know what love is. I ask you now, because I want you to know when you find out: my love for you was always greater than you understood. You do not know what I am about to do. You do not know what Love will do for you. Whatever you think love is, you will soon find out you were wrong, it was less than Love. But I ask you anyway, because if you say you love me, it is not because you know love, but because you know me – and this is enough. it is backwards. If you know me, you will learn to know love. Peter, I want you to know: for as many times as you find out you have failed to love me, you will always be given another time to answer a second time. I ask you now to show you that I will always ask you again.
“Peter, do you love me?” he asked. Peter hung his head. He wondered how Jesus always knew so much. He wondered if he’d just voiced that thought aloud. He knew Jesus knew he loved him, but he also knew how he loved the group. He knew he loved the brothers, and the company in which he finally understood “family”. He knew he loved the sense of the grand plan, and the taste of an unknown victory. He knew he loved to see the miracles. He knew he loved to see the Pharisees put in their place. He knew he loved what Jesus promised. He knew he didn’t always love Jesus for him, but for what he brought. He knew. And he knew that Jesus knew how he flinched when he spoke to the Samaritan woman, and secretly wished he wouldn’t be so provocative for once. And he knew that when she ran away to tell the city, “he knew everything about me,” that knowing his own heart, he’d wished Jesus weren’t like that. He knew he that when he finally asked Jesus to do something to help the thousand people listening to him find a meal, that he’d quietly resented Jesus for not caring about the time in the hours while his own stomach grumbled. He knew how he thought Jesus could be annoying by never answering a question plainly. He knew how he thought maybe Jesus was a liar and making it all up when he never defended himself. He knew how he was angry with Jesus when he let Lazarus die. He knew he was jealous of Jesus who got all the attention. He knew he sometimes missed fishing and the quiet comforts of routine living and thought every now and then about trading it for another leg of the road with him. He knew his head and heart were full of tumultuous conversations around whether or not he was too unconventional, harsh, confusing, extreme, and off-putting to continue to call him friend. He knew. But Peter still had to answer the question. “Peter, do you love me – not who you wish I was, not how you want me to be, not who everyone says I am or am not – but me.” Peter did not know how long he had paused, but for as much as the question a third-time hurt, deep inside he also knew that within the question, Jesus telling him quietly that, yes, yes, you do know who I really am, and what I am really like. And so he said,“Yes,” and he added, “Lord.” And Peter wondered how Jesus still looked at him accepting of this answer, even though he knew.
And that even after all this, he said: Follow me.
You can read about this story in the Bible in John Chapter 21:15-19.