Throughout the hectic days of Christ’s death and resurrection, the words Peter uttered in Pilate’s courtyard must echo in the back of his mind; how could he have denied being a disciple of Christ, when just a few months earlier Jesus had promised that Peter would be the rock upon which the church would be built?
Now as Peter dined alongside the resurrected Christ, he was filled with shame and regret for betraying his friend and Lord. What would his future hold? Would Jesus embrace him again?
Then, at some point during the meal, Jesus points to the tremendous catch and Peter’s fishing equipment and asks, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
At first, Peter hangs his head in shame because Jesus no longer addresses him with his nickname: “The Rock.” Perhaps this is sign that Peter is no longer going to be the central figure in spreading the Gospel. He sheepishly responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” All the while thinking in the back of his head, I hope Jesus doesn’t bring up that whole denial thing.
Jesus responds, “Feed my sheep.”
For split second Peter is stunned; his heart races; a sigh of relief escapes. Then Jesus asks him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love?”
Still, Jesus does not call him Peter, but merely Simon. This time though, Peter responds with a little more certainty: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus responds, “Take care of my sheep.”
As the dinner progresses and Peter is grateful that no one is talking about his betrayal, when Jesus asks Peter a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” This time Peter was hurt that Jesus still did not believe him. He responds, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.”
In other words, “Lord you know that I denied you while you suffered on cross, but you also know that I do love you. And you know that I want to be an instrumental part of sharing your Gospel, even if that means death.”
Jesus turns, smiles and says “Follow me!”
And Peter follows.