One of the most amazing passages for me is John 21:1-25. The scene involves Jesus days after his resurrection with several of his disciples including Peter. I can imagine Peter a bit discouraged. He knew Jesus was alive but was leaving soon. It is possible he hadn’t heard from him in a few days (Jesus remained 40 days after his resurrection according to Acts 1:4). Peter decides to go fishing and some follow him. They spend all night fishing, and they don’t catch anything. Morning comes and Jesus comes to shore. He asks them if they have food and they answered no without knowing it was him (it could have been dark). Jesus gives them instructions to cast the net on the right side and assures them that’s where there are fish. At this point, they should become suspicious that it is Jesus. After all, their first experience with him was when they were fishing, and they catch a lot of fish. So much that Peter is marveled and falls at Jesus’s feet to worship him. As soon as they throw the net, fish start appearing, one hundred and fifty-three to be exact (but who is counting?). At this point, John gets it and yells, “It is the Lord!”. When Peter hears this, he can’t wait, puts on his outer garment and jumps in the water to go see Jesus. As soon as he gets there and the rest as well, they find Jesus has prepared breakfast for them. He puts more fish on the coals and tells them, “Come and eat breakfast”. None of them say anything. There’s nothing to say. They are happy. Jesus takes bread, breaks it, and passes it to them. I can imagine that their minds went back the many times he has done this, especially the Passover when he tells them the bread is his body. They begin eating. Everyone is quiet, enjoying this moment. But then Jesus breaks the silence and directs himself to Peter.
What follows, is for me, one of the sweetest parts of Jesus and his disciples, in particular with Peter. In fact, as I was reading it, I was tearing up.
In a family relationship, the children usually feel that they need to hear they are loved by the parents. Parents don’t usually ask their children. But here Jesus asks Peter a question that not only requires him to affirm his love but brings forth a hurtful past, a failure. Peter had denied the Lord three times. Now Jesus asks him, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”. Peter answers, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love you.” The Lords asks him a second time and Peter answers the same way. Jesus asks a third time. After this third time Peter is hurt. His memory flashes back to his failure. He answers again, but this time he adds a word, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Reading into this, Peter was saying, “This time I do really love you Lord. You know I failed but I repented. I truly love you.”
Each time the Lord asks Peter if he loves him, he gives him a command, “Feed my sheep.” The Lord is saying, “Peter, since you love me, do what I called you to do. Be a fisher of men.” At this point Jesus also gives a prophetic word for Peter that isn’t given to anyone else. Jesus says that Peter when he is old will be led by someone else where he does not want to go. John, the writer of this, says that this meant that Peter would die for Jesus and “glorify God” through it. If there was a time for Peter to back out of following Jesus, it would be here. But Jesus knew that Peter loved him.
We know from history that Peter died as Jesus said he would. It is said that Peter was crucified by Nero the Roman Emperor around 64 AD. Peter loved the Lord so much that he considered it unworthy to die in the same manner as he did. He asked to be crucified upside down.
I can imagine Peter entering heaven and telling Jesus, “I love you Lord,” and Jesus saying, “I knew you did Peter and I love you!”
What if we were told how hard our lives would be as a follower of Jesus and eventually it would cost us giving our lives as a martyr of our faith? Would we still love him and follow him? Maybe we don’t need to be so drastic. But the question still remains, “Do we love Jesus more than anyone or anything else?”