Peter, do you love Me?
In Matthew 16, Jesus tells His disciples that He is heading for the cross. Peter, who was impulsive and loved Jesus a lot, did not want the cross to happen to Jesus. Jesus was not too impressed with Peter.
Mat 16:21 From that time on Jesus began to say plainly to his disciples, “I must go to Jerusalem and suffer much from the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. I will be put to death, but three days later I will be raised to life.”
Mat 16:22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “God forbid it, Lord!” he said. “That must never happen to you!”
Mat 16:23 Jesus turned around and said to Peter, “Get away from me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my way, because these thoughts of yours don’t come from God, but from human nature.”
The cross of Jesus was also a cross for Peter. Peter was a loyal friend. He was a 100% friend. He was prepared to use a sword to defend Jesus. But somehow Jesus did not want to be defended. Jesus took the sword out of his hands. A few hours later Peter found himself totally out of his depth. The religious scholars accused his Friend of stuff, he knew was not true. What could he do? How could he help? He was a fisherman for crying out loud!! Jesus should be defended! But what will he say? Will they listen to him? “Something, anything, please God please!! I have to do something! They are going to kill my Friend. Please God, not this. Anything, but not this!”
Unexpectedly something happens, he was not prepared for. “You are one of His disciples, aren’t you?”, comes a voice from behind. Suddenly self-preservation kicks in. “Am I willing do die with my Friend? Should I stand with Him till the end? Make my stand with Him?” I think those few seconds must have felt like eternity for Peter. Perhaps he had the following thoughts. “What the hell happened between yesterday and today? I am not prepared for this!! Why is Jesus allowing this? He calmed the storm for crying out loud!!”
“No, umm, I do not know Him”
Are you sure?
“Yes, I’m sure”
I’ve seen you with Him.
“Listen you stupid people. Leave me alone! I never met this Man! I DO NOT KNOW HIM.”
In the background a rooster crows and Peter knows. He betrayed his Friend. He thought he was Jesus’s best friend. But now, what was he? Who was the man called Peter? A BETRAYER. A FAILURE. A DESERTER. He ran away and cried like a baby for a very long time. I think the day after Jesus died, could have been the worst day in Peter’s life. Then he had time to think things over. “I could have done this or that. I should have. I wish I was dead. Why God, why?”
What about the second day after Jesus died? “Oh no, here comes John and Luke. They found me! What if they had heard what I said? I will be known as a betrayer forever!”
On the third day there is an empty tomb and rumors that Jesus is alive. I think Peter possibly hoped Jesus was not alive. What would he do if Jesus was alive? How could he possible look Him in the eye after what has happened? A week later, Jesus suddenly appears to all of them. Peter probably stayed in the background. No jumping ahead in the queue this time. Jesus talks about sending, receiving the Holy Spirit and forgiveness and then is gone again.
No angry words. No accusations. Forgiveness? “Could I be forgiven? Surely not. If only I could see Him one more time.”
“We’ve been fishing all night and nothing. What is the man on the beach saying? Throw the net out on the right side of the boat? Great, another nut. WHAT? It’s the Lord! I have to know. I have to know, NOW! This boat is to slow. I cannot afford to lose Him again.”
“HERE PETER, HAVE SOME FOOD. EAT WITH ME.”
“He wants to eat with me. That means I am forgiven!!” I think if there was one moment in Peter’s life that he would have remembered, it would have been that one. 🙂
Jesus asks Peter three times. “Do you love Me?” Three times Peter says “yes”. I think Jesus asked Peter three times because of what the cross did to Peter. Peter was not the same man. He was no longer the world’s best friend. He was no longer the man he was 2 weeks ago. He met himself and it sucked. Big time. Could he ever again say anything with assurance?
But Peter had to know that broken people are capable of love. Broken people love, not because they are so wonderful, not because they are so steadfast, not because they are so trustworthy, but because Jesus loves them. Never again could Peter point to himself as an example to be followed. He could only point to Jesus, the Lover of us all.
p.s. It is interesting to note that Jesus tells Peter in John 21:18-19 that Peter is going to die for the glory of God. After Jesus says this to Peter, He says, “Follow Me!” Legend has it that Peter was crucified about 34 years later. Peter got a second chance to be with his Friend at the cross. He must have been smiling.