If your spouse asks you the question, “do you really love me?” What will you reply? Instantly you will answer non categorically that you do. But if again asked you a second time what will go through your mind? And if again repeated for a third time the question, surely you will begin to doubt the intent of the spouse.
Peter followed Jesus abandoning his fishing trade and was with him for three years. Peter was very impulsive. When Jesus spoke of his imminent death, Peter rebuked Jesus (Matt. 16: 21-22). At the last supper with overconfidence Peter bragged “I will lay down my life for you” (Jn.13:36-37). A short while later he boldly proclaimed: “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away” (Matt. 26.33). Peter was courageous enough in his master’s presence and drew his sword and came to the rescue of Jesus striking the high priest’s servant and cutting off his ear. But later as Jesus predicted, Peter denied Jesus repeatedly. Since the last supper, the past few days of Peter’s life had been a whirlwind of failures and emotions, Jesus was arrested and taken captive, disciples fled for life and when it was time to take a stand, Peter denied Jesus repeatedly. There’s no doubt those denials and how he felt when Jesus turned to look at him, recurred again to Peter (Luke 22:54–62). Peter wanted to escape from those agonizing thoughts. His denials and Jesus’ suffering flashed through his mind again and again. Though he tried to forget it by going back to fishing (his old trade) fear mingled with guilt haunted Peter.
After the resurrection, Jesus meets Peter and other disciples at the shore. With the excitedness of seeing the risen Jesus, Peter jumped into the sea to reach ahead of others. While others came, Jesus asked Peter three times the same question “do you love me more than others?” Peter replied without a second thought “Yes Lord You know that I love you.” When he was asked the second time he felt a little uneasy but without pretension he answered “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” But when he was asked a third time Peter felt that something was wrong. Many flashbacks of the past have gone through his mind and he was perplexed. He might have thought that Jesus asked him three times because of his denial of him three times. It is possible that by His repeated question Jesus was subtly reminding Peter of his three denials. Each time Peter answered affirmatively and Jesus follows up with the command for Peter to feed His sheep. A true shepherd will be ready to sacrifice his life for protecting the sheep. It seems that Jesus was trying to get Peter to understand that true love is unconditional and it requires willingness to sacrifice even life for love.
If Jesus asks you and me the same question “Do you love me more than others” what will be your answer? It is very easy to reply like Peter “Yes Lord I love you.” But to say “Yes Lord You know everything, that I love you” demands a little more in-depth examination. Does your life show that you love Jesus? Do your actions prove your love for Jesus? Are the choices that you make based on your love for Jesus? Would others testify of your love for Jesus?
“St. Peter was chosen to be the chief of the Apostles, although he was subject to so many imperfections that he even committed some after he had received the Holy Spirit, because, notwithstanding these defects, he was always full of courage, never allowing himself to be dismayed by his shortcomings.” St. Francis de Sales