Do you love me?
In today’s Gospel we see Simon Peter at the forefront: he wants to go fishing and he calls to his companions to join him. When Jesus calls to them to ask if they have caught anything, and gives advice about casting the nets to the right side of the boat, Peter realizes that “it is the Lord,” and “jumps into the water, he was for he was lightly clad.” One might wonder if it was his clothing that was the problem, or if he was embarrassed, even horrified, at his earlier denials of Jesus.
After the disciples catch an over abundance of fish, and are sitting by the fire eating the breakfast that the resurrected Lord has prepared, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him…“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon answers, “Lord, you know that I love you.” This happens three times, with the Lord responding in turn, “Feed my lambs…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep.” One might wonder how long it took Peter to realize that his three “yeses” restored a kind of balance tipped by his earlier three denials.
Note that Jesus did not say…”How could you?” or “Why weren’t you loyal to me,” but instead asks the only question that matters in your life and mine…“Do you love me?” Never mind the past…do you love me?
Jesus again has illustrated in this Gospel the Easter gift of second (and third and fourth) chances. Easter invites us to begin again, risen and new as Jesus is, as we are, to put down our empty nets, the stones of our guilt that weigh us down, and begin again, with Word and Sacrament, to live fully the life that we were created for.