In this season of Easter we hear some beautiful accounts of Jesus appearing to the disciples after He was raised from the dead by the Father’s love. You may have a favorite story. My favorite story is the account we heard the Sunday before last. The disciples are lost and confused. They are hiding in a room with the door locked, surely an indication that they are afraid for their lives. They were threatened simply by the fact that Jesus died on the cross. And, while His resurrection from the dead was a surprise and a cause for joy, it also threw them into confusion. When Jesus appeared to them, everything was fine. When He was not there, everything was ciaos.
In the midst of their frustration Peter announces that he is going fishing. They all go with him because they can find comfort in doing what they do well: several of them were fishermen before they met Christ. Now even their old trade seems unworkable. All night long they catch nothing. A “stranger” on shore suggests they try the other side. They are in the presence of Jesus, the Risen Christ, but they do not recognize Him. Then John realizes it is the Lord and they all coming rushing ashore, abandoning their endeavor because they are overjoyed to be with Christ.
What a unique scene we are privileged to experience. As they sun is rising over the lake, Jesus has prepared a charcoal fire with a breakfast of fish and bread. It must have been a wonderful reunion. They probably talked nonstop about their surprise at seeing Him and reminisced about times past. Everything was fine as long as Jesus was there.
They must have wondered what the Resurrection meant. Would it be a return to the good old days when Jesus did the preaching and the healing and they muddled along beside Him? What happens next signals the path Jesus would take.
In this peaceful setting Jesus breaks in with His questions: “Simon Peter, do you love me?” Peter proclaims his love and Jesus encourages Peter to love others: “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep.” Do you love me? Then love them. Remember that Peter had denied Jesus three times. So the repetition of this question three times is meant to bring healing to Peter who deeply regretted his denials.
The Resurrection would not mean a return to the good old days. The Resurrection would point his disciples to the future. With the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Jesus would send the disciples forth to preach the Good News of salvation and live the vision of the Gospel Jesus taught them. The Resurrection meant that Jesus believed in them more than they believed in themselves. The Resurrection means that Jesus believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. The Gospel message of love has been entrusted to us.
Jesus is saying to us what He said to Peter: “Do you love Me?” Then love others, especially those most alone and in need. Feed my lambs, tend my sheep. Reach out to the lost member of your family. Pay attention to the homeless person you pass each day. Stop the gossip at work by saying the good things people need to hear. Don’t judge others but build them up in love.
“Do you love Me?” Great, then love them.
Rev. James M. McNamara