The disciples grinned at each other, stomachs no longer growling, hunger completely satisfied. Jesus had continued to serve them the fresh-caught baked fish and bread until they could hold no more. Now they stood around the fire, invigorated by the cool morning air, the sun just beginning to creep above the hills to the east. Pleased with the lesson just taught and learned, Jesus slowly looked around the circle, a smile forming on his face. One more lesson to teach, he thought. One more wound to heal.
“Peter,” he said quietly,”Do you really love me more than the others love me?”
He straightened, a look of self-satisfaction and pride in his expression.
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” John 21:15 NIV.
Peter’s gaze was fixed on his hands. He glanced behind him, looking for small sheep, then feeling a little sheepish himself.
Jesus cleared His throat. Peter hesitantly began to look up , a reluctant sigh escaping his lips.
“Peter,” Jesus spoke just a little louder,”Do you really love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” verse 16.
The silence was deafening. The other disciples shifted their positions on the sand and stone of the beach, uncomfortable even though another was the object of Jesus’ attention. Peter didn’t move a muscle, his face devoid of expression, not looking at anyone. Especially not looking at Jesus. The silence continued. One minute. Then two.
“Peter,” Jesus said for the third time, His voice stronger now, challenging, carrying outside of the circle and down the beach.
For the third time, Peter heard his name called. A look of hopelessness and pure despair crossed Peter’s face. He had a sudden flashback of his claim that others would desert Jesus, but that he never would. He remembered an evening meal where he promised loyalty. He remembered the voice of Jesus, full of love and pain, predicting his threefold betrayal.
“Peter,” He spoke powerfully,”Do you love me?” His voice pierced the cool morning air just like it pierced Peter’s heart. He fell forward to the ground, his face grinding into the sand, completely humbled, no trace of pride left. He groaned, his voice muffled,
“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” verse 17.
Peter waited, his heart thudding loudly in his chest. Would it all end here? A moment of weakness causing rejection and separation? Would Jesus send him out just like He sent Judas? He heard gravel shifting and grating as someone slowly stood.
A quiet voice said, a loving, accepting voice said, a commanding voice said,”Feed my sheep!”
Peter raised, brushing the sand from his face. His head shook with confusion and maybe, just maybe, the beginnings of hope. He heard footsteps leave the circle and move farther and farther away. He sat up, turning around to see Jesus walking steadily away from him and down the shoreline. Still confused, he sat there, surrounded by the others, still silent, still unmoving.
Suddenly, Jesus whirled and looked back, looked directly at Peter. The others moved aside, leaving a clear path between them.
“Peter!” Jesus’ powerful voice echoed like a trumpet call from the surrounding hills. The look on His face, His commanding stance, every inch the Son of the Living God. Each disciple heard the voice of the Creator God, the voice that spoke the sun into the sky, the voice that raised Lazarus from the dead. Not a sound broke the silence that held the echoes of His voice. Not a trilling bird call, not a slapping wave, not a whisper of wind.
Peter stared directly at his Master, still silent, still unmoving.
Jesus, a smile slowly spreading across His face, shouted in the same commanding voice,”FOLLOW ME!” and, still smiling, He turned to continue His walk.
With a look of pure joy on his face, Peter lunged to his feet and ran after his Jesus.
What was it about those few words? What meaning, what message passed between them? I think something like this- “Peter, I know you. Peter I know your weaknesses. Peter I know you love me. Peter, I want others to hear your total commitment to Me. Peter your denial, your betrayal, your sin does not make Me love you less, does not keep Me from using you. Because it’s not about you, Peter. It’s about Me and My Father’s will. Your sins are forgiven and forgotten, Peter. Look only ever forward, Peter. You are part of Me, Peter. I have a job for you, Peter. Follow me, Peter. Copy Me, work with me, fish for men with me, prepare to go home with Me!
What meaning for me? Have I denied? Have I run away? Have I stopped following? The same forgiveness, the same forgetting, the same future that Peter was given is also mine if I just follow Jesus.