When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep."
~ John 21:15 - 17
When I was in high school, we did the musical "Fiddler on the Roof." I played the old rabbi in town (perhaps some future typecasting?)
There is a scene in the play that I still love to this day. The two main characters Golde and Tevye, have been married for several years and are raising five daughters. They have worked very hard for the very little that they have. At one point Tevye asks God how bad would it be if "I were a rich man?"
While that is a highly spirited song that most people remember, the song that gets me every time is when Tevye asks Golde, "Do you love me?"
Within their tradition, and time period, the two had been brought together by a matchmaker and they met on their wedding day. The song details how they were frightened, and filled with unknowns. They have had children together, and have suffered many things, and have worked hard, but throughout their life together, they had never asked one another the question, "Do you love me?"
At the end Golde responds, "I suppose I do," followed by Tevye sharing, "And I suppose I love you, too."
The reassurance that we are loved is something that we all long for. Saying "I love you," are among three of the most important words that we can share with one another.
While Peter and Jesus are sitting after dinner, Jesus asks Peter, "Do you love me?" He doesn't just ask once. He asks in a series numbering three times. Each time Peter responds, "Yes, of course I do."
Jesus then doesn't respond, "I love you, too," like so many of us do when we hear someone tell us these words. Instead he tells Peter, "Then feed my sheep."
For each of us, the definition of love can take many forms. The expression of love can as well. Jesus asks Peter to demonstrate his love by caring for those that Jesus cares deeply about.
Jesus himself was wounded and killed for our sake. Because he loved each of us as only the Creator can.
Each day we are challenged to take that love to others. John reminds us as well that we are to love each other with the love of God, because God first loved us.
Words that can sometimes be challenging, as well as, overwhelmed by the conditions of this world that keep us from being able to be the bearers of that love to one another.
Each of us are part of that wounded and broken love experienced when Christ was crucified, but even in our own woundedness we are asked, "Do you love me?"
In that loving, God created each one of us, knitting us in our mother's womb (Psalm 139:13) and in doing so, made us capable to love one another.
"Do you love me?"
"Yes, I do."
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain at Essential Hospice, Webster, Texas, and is an ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.