“Yes, Lord, you know I love you.
“Then tend my sheep.” John 21:16
...you also were raised with him... Colossians 2:12
Jesus’ resurrection was not the only one to occur that first Easter. Certainly that’s the way it felt to Peter. He had denied his Lord three times even though he had given his solemn word that he would never do so---even if all else did, even if it meant his own death. When he realized what he had done he wept, but he could not take it back. Or could he?
In a way, the resurrected Christ gave him the opportunity. Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” Peter answered three times (as he had denied him three times), “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Then came the words that Peter could scarcely believe: “Then tend my sheep.” Even though he had failed so miserably, Jesus still entrusted him with the care of his sheep. Peter also had been resurrected. I know how he felt.
The truth is Christ’s resurrection was not the only one to occur that first Easter. As Paul reminds us, we all “were raised with him.” Certainly, we all have failed the Lord numerous times. We have said and done things we wish we could take back. As we look back upon our past with regrets and tears, the risen Christ comes to us and asks us the question which matters most to him, “Do you love me?” We answer, “Yes, Lord, you know that 1 do.” “Then tend my sheep.”
Jesus lets Peter and us know that we are forgiven. The guilt which had previously filled our hearts is replaced with an even deeper love of him. Our attention is redirected from our own regret to the needs of others in his fold. Our burden is lifted. We come forth from the tomb into Easter morning. Our spirits are light and joyful. We have been raised with him.
Peter had compared himself to others. At the Last Supper, he had declared, “Everyone else may lose faith, but I will not.” Jesus had renewed the comparison in his first questioning of Peter: “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others?”
On an earlier occasion, Jesus had invited another Simon to make a comparison: A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he forgave them both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more.” And he said to him, “you have judged rightly.”
Perhaps it was now true that Peter loved Jesus “more than these others,” but it was no longer a prideful comparison but one of grateful humility.
©1998 C. David Hess