When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
I remember that day, on the beach.
Jesus asked me whether I loved him –
the word he used was agape,
the highest form of love, unconditional love.
I hung my head.
We both knew I didn’t love him unconditionally,
when the chips were down I had denied him.
‘Yes Lord, I said,
you know that I love you’,
but the word that I used for love did not match his,
it was philio,
a friendship love,
a lesser love.
‘Feed my lambs’, Jesus said.
What did that mean?
Why choose a man like me?
A second time Jesus asked me the same question
and I gave the same answer.
He asked whether I loved him unconditionally
and I replied that I loved him as a sort of friend.
He answered saying ‘take care of my sheep’.
I felt desolate, empty,
he knew me completely,
why was asking me these questions?
Then a third time he asked,
and I was hurt.
Hurt for two reasons.
Firstly, he now asked me whether I loved him using the word philio.
He had dropped his standards,
had he lost hope in me?
surely he was asking me this to punish me,
why else would he keep repeating the question ‘do you love me?’
Something inside wanted to scream
‘No, no you know that I don’t love you –
you know that denied you,
you know that I ran away when you faced your suffering,
you know I gave up on you,
you know I doubted you,
for goodness sake.. YOU KNOW’
And then something broke inside of me.
Yes, of course he knows,
and I know,
and yet he loves me still,
he loves me with the agape love,
he loves me unconditionally,
no matter what I do,
no matter how badly I let him down.
He loves me.
And in those moments of realisation my heart was stilled.
I was a forgiven man,
forgiven by Jesus
and forgiven by myself.
A peace passed through me.
I am broken and weak and loved unconditionally.
I looked up at the face of Jesus and for the first time I saw the love in his eyes.
“Lord, you know all things;
you know that I love you.” I said,
this time with conviction.
Jesus smiled ‘Feed my sheep’, he said.
And suddenly I knew
I was a new man,
the old Peter could never have fed Jesus’s sheep.
The unbroken and unmended Peter
would have fixed Jesus’ sheep,
would have forced Jesus’ sheep,
would have forged ahead and expected Jesus’s sheep to follow.
But the new Peter,
beaten by my own weaknesses,
wounded by my own words,
remembering always the suffering of the cross,
restored and forgiven by the man before me
and loved unconditionally.
this humbler man,
might be able to feed the sheep.
My heart swelled with thankfulness,
but no words were needed to express this.
I could see the tenderness in the eyes of my Lord.