Do you ever doubt that God really does offer second chances?
After Jonah is spewed up by the fish after his three days under the sea we often overlook his second calling: “then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3:1-2)” There on the edge of the sea, Jonah is called by God a second time, despite running away and ignoring the first call.
We are beside another sea today, and God is, once again, offering another second chance.
15 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.”
16 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.”
17 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. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
Peter denied Jesus three times beside the fire in the courtyard (John 18:17-18,25-27). Jesus asks Peter three time, ‘do you love me?’
It’s not that Jesus needs to hear the answer. He knows what is in Peter’s heart. He knows what’s in all our hearts (Luke 6:8; John 2:24-25). He appears to ask these questions to help Peter leave behind his guilt and shame.
Guilt is saying, “I did something bad.” Shame is saying, “I am bad.”
Peter certainly did something bad; just as we do. Our guilt is removed because of the cross.
But the resurrection can tackle our shame – for shame is about not being able to be with God. We hide ourselves, like Adam and Eve naked in the Garden of Eden, thinking that God will be angry with us because he must surely think we’re worthless?
Shame is the gremlin that says, “I’m never good enough” or perhaps, “who do you think you are?” Shame is fear of disconnection and disappointing people. Shame is about the web of conflicting expectations of who we’re meant to be.
Peter knows he has not been the person he thought he was, or at least the person he should be. In fear, he cannot imagine being used by God again.
So Jesus removes his shame by asking him calmly, three times, ‘do you love me?’
Jesus asks us this today: do you love me?
Spend some time in prayer. Imagine Jesus sat with you, or stood with you, or sat in the car by your side. Imagine him asking you, “Do you love me?” Every time you ask this question you might feel an excuse or complaint rise up, but Jesus asks the question. He’s not looking for a perfect CV, or a sinless life – he’s asking, simply, do you love me?
Then Jesus turns to the future. He isn’t focusing solely on Peter’s past mistakes, but his future calling, his vocation.
Do you notice this second chance is very similar to Jonah’s? Jonah is called to a task.
Jesus doesn’t want Peter to stay still, to simply swim in a sea of good feelings.
Jesus says to Peter, “Follow me!”
Continue to spend time with Jesus in prayer. Imagine him saying, “Follow me!” You might think about that request according to the different hats you wear: parent, child, employee, friend, etc. In all those ways, do you sense a fresh way to follow Jesus?
And Peter has seen what that following means: it means going to the cross. And Jesus makes this point explicit: “when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus ‘ call to follow him is an explicit call to take up our cross.
Do you still have the nail you used on Good Friday? [You were invited to use something all day to remind you of the cross – a card badge, a red ribbon, a black piece of string round your wrist, or perhaps a nail in your pocket.] You might want to use that item today to help you keep thinking about your cross.