Saturday, April 15, 2006

Three Questions

“I don’t know him,” Peter said. In the squeeze of a moment Peter turned a corner and made a choice.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. He asked not because he needed to know, or was curious, or was bothered by doubt. He asked because he cared about Peter.

“I never met the man,” Peter said, perturbed they had asked again. Peter was angry; he felt manipulated, put in a corner. Being decisive was his nature, but he felt sick, torn up inside, in his heart. He didn’t want to get caught, beaten, killed. He attempted to avoid the consequences of being a Jesus-follower. But he knew he would face consequences for his disloyalty. He was afraid. He deliberated about who, and why.

“Do you love me?” Jesus asked. He asked again, not because he hadn’t heard the first answer, but because he knew his friend, Peter; knew what kind of man he was; knew what he needed. Peter’s heart was broken, in need of mending.

“May I be damned if I even recognize him!” Peter shouted. Emotion whelmed up, overtaking his muscles and forcing him to sit at the edge of the fire. The turning was complete. In three swift movements he had betrayed the most important person in his life.

Moments before he had been ready, had lifted the weapon to strike, to defend and protect. He had aimed for a head – missed - but managed to lob off an ear. He'd have taken another slice, but Jesus stopped him. “I need to do this, Peter.”

The fire danced in his face, and a sound caught in his brain. Could it be morning? The sound went unnoticed and unimportant to the others waiting in the courtyard, but to Peter, the simple crowing of a rooster mocked his bravery, his integrity, his allegiance. It penetrated down to his heart and stabbed in hard. His head fell into his hands, and his fingers moistened with tears.

“Peter, do you love me?” At this point in his journey, Peter needed an exact number of questions – exactly three. One or two would have been insufficient. Restoration and healing, the kind Peter would understand, called for Jesus to ask, and ask again, and again. The look in Peter’s eyes indicated to Jesus that the burly, stubborn fisherman now understood.

Peter was crushed by the weight, had endured it many days. He did not know what to do with the burden, a stone around his neck. Eating fish by another fire, he measured his reaction to Jesus’ questions. Three questions for three rejections. Peter was forced to admit the heaviness of his guilt.

Jesus held his gaze, looking directly into the eyes of a hero-in-training. Peter’s eyes did not waver. Big tears rolled down his sun-worn cheeks. They spoke what his lips could not. I was so wrong, so weak. I thought I could follow you anywhere, but I’ve let you down. I am sorry. I don’t know if I can keep going your way. I don't qualify. Can you ever forgive me?

Peter said, “Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus’ smile answered with forgiveness and restoration and healing. “Feed my lambs.”


How many times will Jesus ask me the question: “Ron, do you love me?” How many times will I need to hear it? How many times will it take to restore?

“Lord, you know that I love you.”

“Feed my lambs.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thank God for Peter, not just his writings, but his example. He WAS a faliure at times, like me. Yet he accepted God's grace and forgiveness. I can identify with Peter and the need to have release from the stone of guilt.

This blog was a real encouragement to me.

Thanks Ron,

Thanks Peter,

Thanks Jesus.