Rev. Dr. David Breeden
Focusing Scriptures: John 21:15-25
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the 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. (NRSV)
Isn’t forgiveness supposed to feel good?
You remember the set-up: Peter, the Rock, had said to Jesus on their last night together, “I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus had said then, “Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times” (13:37-38). And, despite some bravado sword play, Peter the Rock petered-out.
Chapter 21 finds the post-resurrection Jesus back with his disciples, preparing them for their ministries to the world. Jesus has just helped them catch a large number of fish, and Peter, after his fashion, had leapt into the water and swam to Jesus when he perceived that it was Jesus on the shore. The other disciples had, on a more reasonable manner, rowed to shore with the catch. Jesus cooked them breakfast.
Yes, a new day has dawned, though it does not appear Peter will change his impulsive ways. On this new day Jesus, the breakfast chef, asks, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" Simon bar John. Simon Johnson says, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Mark one up for Peter. Jesus asks a second time; Peter replies again. But, oh, that third time. “Peter felt hurt” when the question came up a third time. That pesky three, heuristic of fairy tales and sacred time. Yes, something fishy was going on, and Peter said, “Lord, you know everything . . .” Yes, Jesus did, as a matter of fact, know everything—roll the montage were this a movie. “You are the messiah,” Peter says in the heady early days. “I don’t know him,” Peter says in the darkness before the dawn. Peter, the guy who, given a miracle of fish, jumps out of the boat. “Feed my sheep,” Jesus says. And I suspect that Jesus didn’t even roll his eyes; or say the obvious—“Lord, help ‘em!” After all, good teachers know when to let go.
Forgiveness feels best when there is a little cost involved.