Warm brown eyes that could strike storms into calm at will-watched me with that familiar intensity full of compassion while I stood on the sand. Face to Face. Jesus Christ stood before me. My living Lord in the flesh again- except He was not the same as before.
He stretched out a hand toward me. “Simon- son of John, do you love me?”
I glanced away to the remains of the fish bones in small piles next to the fire that my Master had lit only a hour ago. The wind blew through my hair, lifting away from my neck, the tendrils of the breeze smoothed down my beard. The scars on the Lord’s hands gleamed with a dull cast against the smooth skin. The sight of them brought that reminder few nights ago when I denied knowing this Man standing before me.
My heart throbbed with pain I had been carrying these last few days and nights.
“Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
His head tilted at my answer. The wind picked up the hem of his tunic and it fluttered gently across his ankles.
“Tend my lambs” I felt an echo of eternity in my ears. “Tend my lambs. Tend my lambs. Tend my lambs.”
The other disciples stood as if they were surrounded behind me and Jesus. I sensed their discomfort, their concern, and their anxiety. All of that were mine also. Each of them fidgeted. I felt a deep regret enveloping me like a shroud pulled over a corpse. How could I have boasted of never leaving Him and in the same night, cursed and denied knowing the Holy One? I could not understand that fear that stripped me of bravado. Even now, I was almost shaking with fear. Goosebumps scattered all over my arms.
He sighed. Took another step closer, his eyes never left my face. The light behind Him seemed to grow brighter or perhaps I was seeing the play of the sunlight across his face.
“Simon, son of John” His voice thickened with compassion. “ Do you love me?”
I shook my head. Did I love Him? Of course, I gave up everything to be a disciple. I turned over the fishing business to a relative. My wife cared for our family while I was gone on the road, learning from the Teacher and the Prophet, the one that we believed was the Messiah- the Holy One of God. Son of the Father. The Almighty, Blessed be He.
“You know-” I choked and gasped. “Yes, you know that I love you!”
Andrew, my brother, cleared his throat. I knew what he was thinking as he sighed loudly. Impulsively, I moved my head toward Andrew, his face was just as sorrowful as mine.
I heard Jesus speak again, “Tend my sheep.”
My shoulders sagged with the implication of His words. Why was He asking me? Was this a test to see I would pass? I turned and met Jesus’ face directly. An image of Jesus crying out on the execution-stake flashed before my mind’s eye. Rivulets of blood flowed over his pain-wracked figure. Was this to be my punishment? I cried out against all the images that ran before my eyes, a long strand of truths embedded as a fine cord, weighing on my soul. Guilty. My soul declared. Guilty.
My pride defeated before His compassion, my forty-odd years knees buckled to the grassy sand, I felt sand grit against my cheeks.
I felt His presence lower to my shoulders. Cool hands touched my head. If I had not known better, I would have thought He was soothing me like my wife used to do when our little children cried on her lap.
“You know all these things. You know I love you!”
I, Simon Peter, groveling in the sand be fit as a leader? Not for all eternity, could I? I felt Him grab my arm and pull me up.
“Then, tend to my sheep.”
He was King of my heart that I had vowed my service and my life to. The diadem of the sky glittered with the awe-inspiring truth: Forgiven! He has not set me aside. Unlike Judas, I was not lost. My heart yearned to move mountains for Him. If I could, I would sprint up to the Temple and proclaim “He is Risen!”
“Yes, my Lord.”
He grinned in approval. My soul welcomed the offer of eternity in His gaze.
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