– Friday of the 7th Week of Easter –
“Simon son of John, do you love me?” [John 21:15, 16, 17]
On the night Jesus was betrayed, Peter disowned Jesus three times. This ‘barbecue on the beach’ in John 21 was the third time that Jesus had appeared to the apostles after the resurrection. Until now, Peter’s betrayal had not been addressed. You can imagine the ‘elephant in the room’ each time Peter saw Jesus. Though Jesus could have rightly been angered by Peter’s betrayal, this kind of outrage and accusation is not Jesus’ way. Here we can learn from both Jesus and Peter.
First of all, even though Peter knew he’d betrayed Jesus, that didn’t prevent him from running towards the empty tomb and to a potential encounter with the resurrected Christ. And when Peter finally does see Jesus, the first thing Jesus says is “peace be with you” (John 20:19). That is to say, no matter how badly we may have betrayed our Lord, we can always run to him, and he will not accuse and condemn.
Secondly, before Jesus addresses this betrayal, he sits with Peter and the disciples and serves them – he cooks them fish and eats with them. Such is the mercy and generosity of our Lord, that not even a direct betrayal of him will prevent him from serving us and inviting us to a meal with him. There is no suggestion that Jesus is angry, disappointed or offended with Peter.
Thirdly, when Jesus finally does address Peter, it’s not an accusation, or a condemnation, or a re-visitation of Peter’s betrayal; instead it’s a question. A question that reaches right into the heart of Peter’s betrayal. The question is simple – do you love me?! And for each betrayal, Jesus asks: do you love me?
No matter what failings we may be responsible for, Jesus’ message to us is not one of accusation, of judgement, or condemnation; it is a question: do we love him? No matter how deeply and gravely you might feel you have fallen, his grace and mercy are deeper and wider. He makes a way when there seems to be no way and he again invites us into an encounter with him. The Easter event, the cross and resurrection is the deepest expression of God’s love. Easter is God saying to us – I love you and I choose you. Today as we reflect on this gospel, Jesus asks us one simple question: do you love me?
by Peter Pellicaan