The Gospel according to 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.”
Reflection: Have you ever told someone you love them and didn’t really think about it. I’ve started a new thing in my own life that when I finish talking with someone either on the phone or in person I always tell them I love them. Funny really, because it catches them by surprise the first few times – but then it seems like a natural response when we finish our conversation. I good way to get people to think about – what is love!
Three times Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him. And why three times? One reason was so that Peter could “make up” for the three times he denied Jesus. Jesus didn’t need Peter to apologize three times, but Peter needed to express his love three times and Jesus knew it.
Three also just happens to be the number of perfection. For example, we say God is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” This triple expression is a way of saying that God is the Holiest of all. By Peter being given the opportunity to tell Jesus three times that he loved Him it was an opportunity for Peter to express his love in the deepest way.
So we have a triple confession of love and a triple undoing of Peter’s denial going on. This should reveal to us our own need to love God and seek His mercy in a “triple” way.
When you tell God that you love Him, how deep does that go? Is it more a service of words, or is it a total and all-consuming love? Is your love of God something that you mean to the fullest extent? Or is it something that needs work?
We all need to work on our love, and that is why this gospel is so significant for us. We should hear Jesus asking us this question three times. We should realize that He is not satisfied with a simple, “Lord, I love You.” He wants to hear it again, and again. We can do that in word AND action! He asks us this because He knows we need to express this love in the deepest way possible. “Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You!” This has to be our ultimate answer.
This triple question also gives us the opportunity to express our deepest longing for His mercy. We all sin. We all deny Jesus in one way or another. But the good news is that Jesus is always inviting us to let our sin be a motivation for deepening our love. He doesn’t sit and stay angry at us. He doesn’t pout. He doesn’t hold our sin over our heads. But He does ask for the deepest of sorrow and a complete conversion of heart.
Action of the Day: Reflect, today, upon the depth of your love for God. What are the ways you express your love to Him. Think of a way to express your love for God in a triple way. Let it be deep, sincere and irrevocable.