Say, Do You Love Me? The Gospel of John- 21:15 -19

jesus-and-peter.jpg

Gospel  John 21: 15 – 19

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
How do I love Thee?? Let me count the ways“…Surely these are not the sentiments floating around in the heart of Peter as Jesus is asking him several times if He loves Him... really loves Him in that ‘Lay down my life for you’, kind of love..… Obviously these questions are quite distressing for Peter. He knows that Jesus knows everything…so why does He keep asking him about his love? From many of the meditations I have read,  many of them point to the fact that there are two different words that Jesus has used when asking Peter if he loves Him.
The first word Jesus used for love was ‘agape,’ which is a self sacrificing love…like the love God has…it s a deep love. Peter hears this and responds that yes, he does in fact love Jesus, but he used the word ‘phileo‘, which is the word for love that is like a friendship type of love. A good love to be certain, but not the agape love that Jesus first used.
Now, some have made a big deal about the used of the two different words for love, but I think more to the point is that Jesus is just confirming in front of all the other disciples, that Peter is the rock upon which His Church will be built. When we read this passage, we may be tempted to think that Jesus is being tough on Peter…or we may even wonder why He is bothering with Peter, after all, Peter denied Him three times, didn’t he?
Well, this is what makes Jesus ‘Jesus’…He has the ability to change us…By asking Peter three times if he loves Him, He is really pouring His grace and His mercy upon Peter…He is washing him of his previous sins…cleansing him of his denial… He is using this opportunity to re-establish Peter as the head of the disciples and also to confirm in Peter that He is entrusting Him with His Flock.
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That takes a lot of trust. Most of us wouldn’t even be able to look at Peter again if he had turned against us three times. Heck, most of us can barely tolerate one offense against us. We are that arrogant and proud. But Jesus, not only is He showing us that we must work…’Feed my sheep‘… He is also showing us, that with Him…with His Divine Mercy, all of our past sins can be forgiven…He has the ability to wash us…to cleanse us and transform us into new creatures… Ones that can be trusted to ‘tend His sheep’ and carry out our vocations that He has intended. Even if we have sinned. Even if we have turned away from Him. He is still calling us…asking us to love Him… to follow Him.
When we are feeling hopeless, caught in the shadow of our sins, we must remember that Jesus is still calling us. Still longing for us to follow Him, and turn away from our past transgressions. He is the sacrifice for our sins…  He is our forgiveness and our Mercy… He is our Salvation.
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