21 May 2010

John 21:15-19

"He said to him the third time, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?' Peter felt hurt 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.'" (v.17)


Simon Peter was one of Jesus' most colourful disciples. We know more of him from the Gospel accounts than probably about any other disciple. He was impetuous, always ready to please, always making suggestions - sometimes without thinking how he could carry those suggestions through. Many Christians love Peter because they can identify with him.

This passage is a very poignant interchange between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asked Peter three times whether he loved him. These three questionings, of course, correspond to Peter's earlier threefold denial of Jesus under intense pressure and scrutiny in the courtyard of the high priest, as Jesus was being tried (John 18:15-27).

Peter was mortified when he denied his Lord. He wept bitterly. He had asserted his love and loyalty beforehand but when the test came he fell at the first hurdle. How could he face Jesus here? What would Jesus make of him now? It's easy to imagine the thoughts that would be running through Peter's head.

But Jesus does not just pat Peter on the head and say he has forgiven him. He gives him a serious task to perform - to look after the followers that Jesus is leaving behind. Jesus does not speakforgiveness to Peter, he acts forgiveness. He trusts him and, in being trusted, Peter finds forgiveness and strength.

To Ponder

Think back on an experience where you felt denied or undermined by a trusted friend. How did you deal with that?

Forgiveness is a difficult business, and there is not just one way of forgiving people. Accepting forgiveness from others is often more difficult. Think of occasions in your life where another has offered you forgiveness but you have found it hard to accept.

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.