Real Talk – Br. Lain Wilson

John 21:15-19

“How’re you doing?”

How do you usually answer this question? “I’m fine,” perhaps, or “I’m okay.” In our daily interactions we get asked seemingly polite questions like this over and over, and we are conditioned to respond politely.

They don’t want to know your whole life story.

Unless they do. But we can’t know their intention—unless they persist, unless they make known their intention.

“How’re you doing?” “No, really, how’re you doing?”

How do you feel knowing that someone else truly cares to know something true about you?

“Peter felt hurt because [Jesus] said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’” (Jn 21:17).

The passage is clear here that Jesus’s repeated asking is the cause of Peter’s hurt. But I think there’s something else going on beneath the surface. It’s not just that Peter is hurt because he is being doubted, but rather that there may be some basis for this doubt.

I think Peter’s hurt at the questioning reveals something true about him: that he has been hurting, that he has been grieving, grieving this whole time—grieving his failure, his cowardice in denying Jesus. Perhaps, that he has been questioning his own love of Jesus—or, rather, his own worthiness for that love.

But this repeated questioning is, I think, Jesus saying, “No, really.” Jesus invites Peter to be real, and it is important that these three repeated questions yield the same answers: “Yes, you know I do.”

“You know I do.”

Peter is raw, pleading, and unequivocal—“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17).

The questions—and the answers—aren’t for Jesus. Jesus already knows. They’re for Peter, who may need that repeated invitation to be real, to bring to the surface his own grief, to know assuredly not only that he loves but that he is loved. And to hear—also, repeated three times—the way that this love will be lived out in the world: “Feed my sheep.”

And these questions are for us, our own invitation to dig deeper, to be real, to be assured in our own claim. To be able to answer the question “Do you love me?” with our own “Yes, Lord; you know I do.” And to live that love out in the world.


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  1. John A Hubbard on May 23, 2024 at 18:02

    Thank you.
    Your message led me to ponder and dig deeper.
    Yes, I love Jesus, but what does that require of me?
    Love is not a one-way street. I know Jesus loves me, but how do I reciprocate that love?
    I must put aside my ego, make Jesus the center of my life, and follow his teachings. In doing so, I must remember Bonhoeffer’s dictum, which is that following is my invitation to die—a death that is not necessarily physical but one that requires me to follow Jesus rather than all the voices that beckon from the media and my own ego.

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