Posted by: T. Boyd | August 7, 2012

Do You Love Me?


This, perhaps, is the most poignant question ever asked. Jesus asked it three times of Peter in John 21; some say the question is repeated the same number of times that Peter denied Jesus.

In my mind’s eye I picture Peter in a very downcast and sorrowful state because he failed his hero, his mentor, and thinks of himself as finished forever as a disciple. Surely what he has done is unforgivable and although he will always love the Lord, he will never be in the inner circle again.

And then … Jesus not only makes known that he is forgiven, but also that he wants Peter to be a leader, a person who will tend, feed, and guard the flock of new believers. The wonder of this moment, unforeseen by Peter is breathtaking. Not only by Peter but by the other disciples.

The men avoided talking about what had happened in the courtyard of the high priest, I would imagine. True, they had also abandoned the Lord at his arrest, but they had not gone as far off track as had Peter. And John, the beloved disciple, had even gone back to the courtyard and had witnessed the betrayal by Peter.

And then this group of men, who had lived for 3 years with the Son of Man who had been resurrected from the dead, witness this amazing scene when Jesus restores this previously boisterous, impulsive fisherman whose confidence had been shattered on the eve of Passover. And now his soul is not only being repaired, but he is being given the job of mentoring others. How could this be?

They think that Peter is permanently crippled because of his behavior on that awful night. It seems to them that all the strength of Peter had deserted him, and it was taking all of his effort to just get up to face the day; he could never forgive himself for what he had done, they are sure.

But Peter finally regains enough courage to turn to his nets in order to do something to lift the depression. So he declares, “I’m going fishing,” and a half-dozen disciples join in the effort to resume a normal life.

Something seems strangely familiar about this night of fishing without catching a fish. It reminds them of the time several years ago when they were washing their nets on the shore of Galilee after an unproductive night of fishing. They are lost in the memories of that morning and longing to see their beloved Lord  again – they miss him so much – when suddenly a man on the shore calls out,

“Children, do you have any fish?”

 They answer him, “No.”

 He says to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.”

And like before, they experience an incredible impact of fish rushing into the nets. And then they know. The man on the shore. It is the Lord! Peter jumps into the water to swim to Jesus, leaving the others to struggle to land the fish on the beach. They want to remember this miracle, so they count the fish: 153 large ones. A new record, they are sure.

What a wonderful, glorious morning. It is a confirmation that the new kingdom of God has indeed been inaugurated. They will be thrilled a few days later at Pentecost when the Spirit of God pours out upon them, and as John the Baptist had prophesied, they are baptized with the Spirit and fire. He is forever in them – He is Emmanuel, “God with us.”  They no longer have to see him physically – they know he is with them.

And so, the seven men behold anew the glory of the Lord that morning as they enjoy a breakfast of fish and bread on the shore, baked over a small fire by our Lord. And as they see that glory, they are “being transformed into the same image, from one degree of glory to another”.

The questions and commands given to Peter are also directed to all of them, if they love the Lord, they are to serve others with the same love that He has loved them. He will empower them to die to self in living the resurrection life, “jars of clay” from which flow the rivers of life to bring healing and reconciliation to the many thirsty souls around them.

And the question still echos through the years, “Do you love me?” And our hearts respond each time, more and more earnestly, “Yea, Lord, you know I love you!” And we also say, “We believe. Help thou our unbelief”.

“And we all, with unveiled face,  beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)

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