“Why did he have to keep asking me that?” I thought to myself.
Once would have been enough. He knows how I feel. You would have thought he’d understand. I know I screwed up in a big way, but to ask me that three times? It was embarrassing and really hurt.
We had just finished our meal, and were enjoying each others company. I cannot describe how it felt to be with Jesus again. After the crucifixion, we were all feeling pretty hopeless. Had we misunderstood who he was?
Because of what I had done, I can’t imagine any of the other followers feeling any worse than me. My brother Andrew and I were some of the first to become his friends. We loved him, this Jesus of Nazareth.
“Who do people say the Son of Man is?” he asked our group one day.
“Some say you are John the Baptist and others think you are Elijah,” we answered, adding, “Others think you are Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”
“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”
“You are the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” I said, fully sure of my convictions.
We saw the miracles, we witnessed his love. We saw how he communed with Yahweh. We heard his words, we learned from him, and we knew. We just knew it was all true.
But then the crowds turned on him. Well, the religious leaders first, but they got the crowds to turn.
He went from a hero that people couldn’t get enough of to being despised and rejected. And then the ultimate – Judas’ betrayal. Oh, how I hated Judas for that. How could he have done that? We all knew the risks. I was ready to go to prison with Jesus, or even face death. How I loved him!
But then I remembered how he had alleged at our last gathering that I would disown him! How could he say that? I would have died for him, or so I thought.
It did happen. Not just once, either. I not only disowned Jesus, but I denied even knowing him three times. Three times! Maybe I was too hard on Judas. How could I have been so scared and weak?
It got worse, though. After they put to death the Chosen One, we lost hope. I guess we forgot some of the things Jesus had told us, or maybe we just didn’t fully believe. He predicted his death, but he also told us how he would rise again.
It was a long three days, but then we heard the news. He was indeed alive. After that we saw him, and we were overjoyed. As glad as I was to see Jesus, I was still ashamed of what I had done. I knew he would forgive me, since that is one of the reasons he came in the first place.
Still, three times? What a coward I was. However, when we saw him again shortly after his resurrection, I jumped out of the boat to get to him. Words cannot describe how much I cared.
So, when he asked me if I loved him, and I answered yes, I thought that was the end of it. I knew then that he had forgiven me. But then he asked me again.
“Peter, do you truly love me?”
“Of course I love you, Lord.”
“Take care of my sheep.”
O.K., he just wanted to make sure. That’s why he had asked me again.
“Do you love me?” for the third time.
I don’t think I could hide the hurt in my eyes this time, but I still answered, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
“Feed my sheep.”
Three times he had to ask me if I loved him. Did he really need that assurance, or was it for my benefit? Three times?
I get it now. I denied him three times. Disowned him. I said I never knew him! What a betrayal. Yet, he forgave me. Three times he asked me if I loved him, and I answered. He did that for me. He wanted me to know I was truly forgiven. Completely. Not just for the first denial, but all of them. Three for three! He wanted to make sure I knew.
Thank you Jesus for making sure I got it. Finally.
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