Jesus and Peter
15When Jesus and his disciples had finished eating, he asked, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than the others do?”
Simon Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I do!”
“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus said.
16Jesus asked a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you!”
“Then take care of my sheep,” Jesus told him.
17Jesus asked a third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus had asked him three times if he loved him. So he told Jesus, “Lord, you know everything. You know I love you.”
Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep. 18I tell you for certain that when you were a young man, you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will hold out your hands. Then others will wrap your belt around you and lead you where you don't want to go.”
19Jesus said this to tell how Peter would die and bring honor to God. Then he said to Peter, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw Jesus' favorite disciple following them. He was the same one who had sat next to Jesus at the meal and had asked, “Lord, who is going to betray you?” 21When Peter saw this disciple, he asked Jesus, “Lord, what about him?”
22Jesus answered, “What is it to you, if I want him to live until I return? You must follow me.” 23So the rumor spread among the other disciples that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say he would not die. He simply said, “What is it to you, if I want him to live until I return?”
24This disciple is the one who told all of this. He wrote it, and we know he is telling the truth.
The urge to compare ourselves to others is rooted deeply in the human condition. It shows up in thoughts like these: If only I could speak as well as her…. I wish I could sing like him….Oh, to be so gifted at hospitality…or art…or writing. The list goes on.
In this seaside encounter, the resurrected Jesus goes immediately to the heart of the matter. In fact, it is almost as if he sets Peter up; it’s as if Jesus wants Peter to see his own propensity for comparison.
Listen to his opening question. Jesus asks: “Peter, do you love me more than these others?” Watch Jesus as his arm arcs around the circle of disciples. Peter’s eyes follow him, settling on his friends and on John in particular.
“Of course, Lord,” Peter replies, thinking to himself, “I must be as good as my friends here, I surely love Jesus as much as they do.”
But Jesus is not really interested in comparison. He is interested in Peter. Jesus has a singular task for Peter. He also has a singular command.
The task: to lead others.
The command: to follow Jesus.
Peter’s response is classically human. Rather than be captivated by Jesus’ call on his life, Peter is focused on the lives of others. “What about him?” he says, pointing to his friend, John.
But Jesus will not be sidetracked. This conversation is for and about Peter. Jesus wants Peter to know that. “That’s none of your business,” says Jesus. “You follow me.”
There are many reasons why we humans compare ourselves to one another. Sometimes we are envious; sometimes we need a way of escape, to transfer attention away from ourselves and onto another. Whatever the reason, Jesus calls us away from it.
“Look at me,” he says. “Do you love me?”
And then this:
“Here’s YOUR task,” he says. “ YOU follow me.”
Jesus, thank you for loving me for who I am rather than for who I try to be. Help me to see myself through your eyes and to accept the task you give me to do. Give me strength to follow you. Amen.