April 30, 2004

the question

We were on the shores once again. The fire was going, the fish were cooking, it was almost like it had never happened, but we all knew that it had happened. They had killed him, we had seen it. But there he was, just sitting there in front of the fire, conversing with us about our families, the weather, and our futures. And on top of everything else, he had cooked us breakfast!

After the meal, I hung around the fire just to be close to him. I just wanted to hear his voice. It was a voice that was filled with confidence, and could fill with confidence. It was a voice that made me think that I could go to the ends of the earth for him. It was a voice that could make me tremble when my heart was filled with pride. And it was a voice that could soothe my shaking heart when it was loaded with doubt. I wanted to dwell in that voice and have its sole attention. But right now his eye was on someone else. And I knew that before long that voice would be directed toward Simon.

I listened in.
"Simon son of John, do you truly LOVE me more than these?"

Peter knew this word, this LOVE. This unconditional LOVE that he had claimed to have for the Christ. This LOVE that Jesus had demonstrated to us time and again in his life and ultimately through his death. Oh yeah, Peter knew that word for LOVE.
"Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

I almost went over there at Peter's response. A simple statement of a warm brotherly love was all that he could come up with. I wanted to grab him and say, "c'mon, Peter, you know you have more passion about him than any of the rest of us." But Peter didn't even look up to meet his gaze. He was ashamed of what had happened, and we all knew it. I wish that he had just glanced up into the face of Christ. Jesus' face was filled with compassion, and his reply, though quiet, shouted volumes.
"Feed my lambs."

Peter shifted uneasily. I wasn't sure if he understood what was happening. Jesus wasn't done with him yet. Oh, Peter thought that he had blown it for good, but like usual, Jesus just didn't see things that way. There was a place for him. A job to be done.
"Simon son of John, do you truly LOVE me?"

This time Peter flinched. Then he said,
"Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

But his expression said, "Yes, Lord, you know that there is an affection there... But I'm useless! I denied you. How could you..." But before he could utter another sound, Jesus puts it out there again:
"Take care of my sheep."

Jesus leaned in a little toward Peter. The tone of his voice was reassuring. It whispered, "The job is still here, Peter, my rock. The job is still here."
"Simon son of John, do you love me?"

I felt like my heart would break, and I could see the hurt in Peter's eyes. This time Jesus had changed his word. No longer asking for the unconditional love, now a simple request for a warm tenderness. It was almost as if Jesus had said, "alright... I know where you are. But I also know that I still LOVE you and want to use you." His compassion is overwhelming.
"Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

"Feed my sheep."

The rest of the time that I knew Peter, I would hear him mumble under his breath, so lightly I could barely hear it, "Yes, Lord, I love you." Never with the unconditional love, but always with the brotherly love. But I have heard tell that from his cross, his last words were, "Yes, Lord, I LOVE you."

Since that day, the question has continued to come. Not only to Peter, but to all of us who are now called Christians. It comes when we are being persecuted for our faith. It comes loud and clear when we are being tried and convicted. It comes quietly when things just don't go our way.

He asks us again and again,
"do you LOVE me?"