John 21, 15-16
Something to read
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' A second time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' He said to him, 'Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Tend my sheep.'
New Revised Standard Version
Something to think about
This is one of the most famous dialogues in the Gospels. In the previous verses, the author of John's Gospel records that Peter put on his clothes and jumped into the lake when he realised the risen Christ had appeared. He did not do this because he was naked, as implied, but because he was ashamed.
He was ashamed because he had denied Jesus three times during his trial and crucifixion. Jesus had predicted this when he told Peter that 'when the rooster crows, you will have denied me three times.' And Peter did just that. When asked if he was a disciple of Jesus, Peter said: 'I do not know the man.'
In this encounter with the risen Lord, Peter is reinstated as leader of the apostles. For his denials, Peter is not condemned, cast out or rejected. Rather, he is asked three times: 'Simon, son of John, do you love me?'
With each question, Peter answers yes. Jesus responds 'feed my sheep' – in other words, be a shepherd of the flock, a pastor of the church.
So the cowardly, all too human Peter is not sacked but promoted. Jesus does not act in the manner expected. In fact, he does the opposite. He responds to Peter's past denials not with judgement but with grace.
Something to do
Whenever you can, give someone another chance and show mercy – on faith. We have lots of opportunities to do this in life. We know that the usual procedure for gross incompetence is to sack the employee.
Most of us have heard the classic phrases 'it isn't personal, it's just business' or 'business is business'. Certainly, the worst kind of incompetence for an apostle is to deny the Christ. After all, the 'business' of an apostle is to bear witness to the good news, and the centre of the good news is Jesus Christ.
Yet Peter is not 'terminated' for his failure. He is reinstated. He is given another chance. When confronted with human failing, Christ calls us to be gracious and merciful – and even reinstate someone, without chiding or judgement.
Something to pray
A prayer of Saint Jerome (342-420 AD)
O Lord, show your mercy to me and gladden my heart.
I am like the man on the way to Jericho who was overtaken by robbers,
wounded, and left for dead: O Good Samaritan, come to my aid. I am like the sheep that went astray: O Good Shepherd, seek me out and bring me home in accord with your will. Let me dwell in your house all the days of my life and praise you forever and ever. Amen.
Today's contributor is the Rev James Matarazzo Jr, a United Church of Christ (USA) minister from Boston, Massachusetts. He moved to London in 2007. Jim is a founding member of INERELA+ (International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Affected by HIV and AIDS), a Christian Aid partner. He is now working on a DPhil in Systematic Theology at Oxford University.