The beach was waking up. Gulls bobbed on the water, squawking at the fishermen and diving for food. Other boats pulled up to the shore, their crews gaping at the huge catch that had already been hauled in.
When the eight friends finished eating, Jesus and Peter walked along the shore where the breeze ruffled the water and splashed into foam near their feet.
The small talk of the first reunion had passed.
Peter was still struggling with where to begin when Jesus asked, “Simon Peter, do you truly love me more than these?” He threw his thumb over his shoulder toward the dying fire and the disciples milling about the boats and baskets of fish. Do you love me in the way I have loved you–unconditionally?
The answer, Peter knew, was no. “You know I love you like a brother.”
Jesus asked again, and Peter, determined to be truthful, replied the same.
When Jesus asked a third time, Peter felt his heart breaking open. “Simon, do you just love me like a brother?”
“Lord, you know all things.” You know what I did, where I fled, how I wept. You know that’s not the kind of love You have for me. Your love is without limits. Without fear. “You know that I only love you with a brotherly kind of love.”
And with that humiliating confession, Jesus commissioned Peter to lead and care for all those Jesus called His own.
While Peter may have been grieved, Jesus wasn’t disappointed with Peter’s honesty.
Peter confessed his flawed love for Jesus, and it didn’t change God’s plan for Peter.
It’s as if Jesus says, “Even that kind of affection is useful to me. I will use it and transform it into something you are not yet capable of. You, follow me!”
Jesus had a pattern of asking questions, but it was never because he needed information. It was always to point the person back to Himself. Back to their need, so He could show them that He would meet it
How many loaves do you have?
Who do you say that I am?
Where is your faith?
And when people answered honestly, Jesus went to work in their lives.
Jesus questions us, not because He needs an answer, but because we do. And incredibly, our honest and disappointing answers do not render us useless.
Instead, honesty with God allows Him to transform our flawed devotion, our small offering, our tiny faith into something we are not yet capable of. It renders us dependent, willing, and useful to Christ.