“He said to him a third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to Him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.”’ – John 21: 17
Most of us are familiar with the expression: a “come to Jesus talk.” We think of it as a last chance. It can be a tough-love conversation between a coach and an athlete, or a boss and team member who isn’t living up to expectations. Perhaps you’ve had this type of conversation.
Did you know that there was an ORIGINAL “come to Jesus talk?” It actually took place between Jesus and Peter after Jesus rose from the dead. In fact, it was only Jesus’ third appearance after the cross and took place early one morning over breakfast with Peter. I like to think that as Jesus began this now well-known chat with Peter (John 21: 15-19), that Jesus pulled him aside as He asked three times, “Do you love me?”
Imagine. You’re face to face with your mentor, your leader, the person whom you love and long to honor, after having completely let them down. What’s worse is that he or she knows exactly what you did. This was the case with Peter.
On the day of Christ’s crucifixion, the disciples were in a panic. If Jesus could be arrested and condemned, then certainly his closest followers were next. So, when asked if he had been part of Jesus’ group – Peter said no. Not just once, but three times Peter denied knowing and associating with Jesus. Imagine the shame and guilt Peter carried as he sat having breakfast with the now resurrected Savior. Everything that Jesus predicted – that Peter would deny him three times – had come true. And now, Jesus was asking him over and over again (three times in a row), “Do you love me?”
By asking Peter three times if he loved Him, Peter was reminded how he had sinned (three times). This recognition of how he fell short was an important part of reconciliation. Secondly, Jesus’ questions offered Peter a chance to reaffirm his love and commitment to the Lord. By Peter confirming his love for Jesus, we see how Jesus was reconciled with Peter. Each time Peter said he loved Jesus, Jesus showed that He still believed in Peter as His chosen leader of the church by saying, “Feed my sheep.”
Christianity is a relationship. It’s a relationship with Jesus. In this original “come to Jesus” talk with Peter, we see how Jesus cared enough to pursue and redeem Peter after he totally let Jesus down. Here’s the Good News: just as Jesus pursued a reconciled relationship with Peter in the original “come to Jesus” talk, He pursues a reconciled relationship with us. Always!