I have always read this passage with emphasis on the word love. In my mind, I heard Jesus asking, “Simon, do you love me?” But consider an alternate emphasis: “Simon, do you love me?” Hearing it that way seems to capture the essence of Peter’s struggle all along. Peter was a passionate guy. He followed Jesus with intensity. But like many of us, he struggled with insecurity, anger and impulsiveness. And he struggled to align himself with Jesus’ true identity and mission. Many times, I think Peter was in love with the type of Messiah he wanted Jesus to be rather than who Jesus actually was…and is.
So over breakfast at a fire on the beach, the resurrected Christ asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” Do you have affection and devotion for the real me? Not your desire for a political leader and worldly influence. Do you love a Messiah whose upside-down, not-of-this-world kingdom looks like tending and feeding sheep? Where leadership isn’t about power, but love and sacrifice.
I find myself challenged by this exchange. Do I love the real Jesus or my own construct of what I want Him to be? But I am also encouraged, because by gently revealing idols in our hearts, Jesus intentionally restores and commissions us for true kingdom work.
- Jen Hanson