I admit it. I get irritated with people who ask the same question over and over. It’s a failing in me, I know. I should be more patient, more understanding of insecurities or the need for reassurance or whatever, but I’m not. I just get irritated.
“Yes, I already said you could park there.” (Do you think I changed my mind and didn’t bother telling you?) “Yes, I really am warm enough. Please stop offering me blankets.” (Do you think I am lying?) “No, it’s not over-cooked. It wasn’t overcooked last time you asked, or the time before, and it’s still not over-cooked now.” (Does the fish magically cook more while on my plate?)
I guess I would not have fared too well with Jesus. I mean, how needy is this?
“Do you love me?” “Yes.”
“Do you love me?” “Yes. I just said so.”
“Do you love me?” “Yes! How many times do I need to tell you this?”
But, of course, that’s missing the point. The questions aren’t for Jesus’ benefit, they’re for Peter’s. It’s easy to trot out the stock answers. “Yes dear, you look lovely.” But is it true? Or just a British conventional platitude? “Oh no, it’s not over-cooked. It’s delicious.” What else could you say to your host who has spent ages barbecuing some fish for your tea?
The Bible tells us that Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him three times. Was he hurt because he thought Jesus didn’t believe him? Was Peter’s answer the easy polite lie?
I don’t know. Maybe the first time it might have been. Jesus knew it was true. But it took three questions before Peter knew it too. The unspoken question took a while to be heard.
I wonder what would happen if I stopped getting irritated at the spoken questions and listened to the unspoken ones instead.
John 21:1-19 New English Translation
After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. Now this is how he did so. Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael (who was from Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of his were together. Simon Peter told them, “I am going fishing.” “We will go with you,” they replied. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already very early morning, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, you don’t have any fish, do you?” They replied, “No.” He told them, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they threw the net, and were not able to pull it in because of the large number of fish.
Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” So Simon Peter, when he heard that it was the Lord, tucked in his outer garment (for he had nothing on underneath it), and plunged into the sea. Meanwhile the other disciples came with the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from land, only about a hundred yards.
When they got out on the beach, they saw a charcoal fire ready with a fish placed on it, and bread. Jesus said, “Bring some of the fish you have just now caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and pulled the net to shore. It was full of large fish, one hundred fifty-three, but although there were so many, the net was not torn. “Come, have breakfast,” Jesus said. But none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the solemn truth, when you were young, you tied your clothes around you and went wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will tie you up and bring you where you do not want to go.” (Now Jesus said this to indicate clearly by what kind of death Peter was going to glorify God.) After he said this, Jesus told Peter, “Follow me.”
New English Translation (NET)
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