Acts 25: 13-21
John 21: 15-19
Relationships can be hard. For all the joy they can bring, at some time something will go wrong where one or both parties are less than they have the potential to be. It is the nature of our humanness. For the relationship to continue and hopefully to be restored, a conversation must ensue. Ideally the word ‘sorry’ is used, sometimes not. The very act of the conversation indicates that both parties value the relationship and want to continue but imagine Peter’s apprehension and vulnerability knowing that he will need to have a conversation with Jesus after denying him three times. No matter how compassionate and merciful the other party may be, there is a point of reckoning.
This text is often referred to as ‘The Commissioning of Peter’ except Jesus uses the name ‘Simon’. Peter is no longer the rock, he has returned to what he knows- fishing but Jesus is asking him to be a shepherd. With the first question Jesus is looking for commitment. There are subtleties in the original Greek that we miss in English with the use of ‘love’. Peter doesn’t respond with the level of love that Jesus uses. Perhaps he is aware of his own failings, he is certainly not boasting that he loves Jesus more than the other disciples, but Jesus has the confidence in Peter to ask him to feed his lambs. A second time Jesus asks and a second time Peter responds in the same way but is asked to tend the sheep. The third time Jesus meets Peter where he is at, but this does not seem to be a compromise position. Peter is grieved that Jesus asks again but acknowledges that Jesus knows all things. Jesus knows what Peter’s capacity is and asks him to feed his sheep. Peter will be a better leader for acknowledging his own failings.
Like Peter, we all fail sometimes, even in the relationships that we hold dear with the people we are closest to. How reassuring it is to know that Jesus will meet us where we are and his faith in us can overcome our failings.
Alison Gore is a parishioner at St Paul of the Cross, Glen Osmond. She works in education and formation.