“ So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15).

Ever been in that awkward moment with someone you’re trying to avoid eye contact with? Jesus makes eye contact with Peter, initiating a conversation. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” These other disciples? Is Jesus referring to Peter’s arrogant assertion, “Even if everyone else falls away, I will not?”

Is Jesus’ question intended to remind Peter of his sin, rubbing Peter’s denial in his face? It’s unlikely Jesus would harass and embarrass a broken man who may be still fretting over his mistake. Nor would Jesus pit one disciple’s commitment against another’s. When Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love Me more than these?” Jesus is referring to Peter’s boat, fishing gear and the 153 fish he just caught. Jesus is addressing Peter’s former life. You used to be a fisherman, but I called you to be a fisher of men.

Jesus is asking, “Peter are you still with Me? Yes you failed, but are you giving up and going back to your old way of handling life? Back to life without Me?” It’s like the way we sometimes revert back to our unforgiving attitude, back to our dysfunctional ways of coping with the past.
Three times, Jesus repeats His question to Peter. Why? Is it because of Peter’s three denials? Is Jesus allowing Peter to redeem himself? Three confessions for three denials? That would imply a “tit for tat” payment scale. Karma is not how God deals with our sins. We’re saved by grace, purely by His love – just for the asking. Our good deeds never stack up against our bad ones. Peter’s love for Jesus was not in question. What’s in question is can Peter forgive himself? Can you put your failures behind you and go forward with Me? Don’t be your own worst enemy.

Adapted from “For Pete’s Sake” by Rev. Dr. William A. Lewis