Read His Words Before Ours!
“Simon, do you love me with a love that is selfless, pure, and passionate?
Do you love Me most?”
My eyes lifted from my hands, meeting Jesus’ gaze. His question lingered, as the juice from the fish dripped down my forearms, my heart pounding.
I couldn’t stop the scene playing out in my mind’s eye as I recalled the darkest moment in my life…
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” she asked as I walked into courtyard where Jesus was. I quickly shook my head, “I’m not!” But guilt consumed me.
I am. I am His disciple.
But I didn’t want to die.
“Aren’t you one of His disciples?” I was asked again. “No!” I insisted.
“But I saw you in the garden with Jesus,” another said.
“No, you didn’t! I do not know this Man!”
The rooster crowed. Just as He’d said it would.
I had denied my Lord three times.
“Lord, You know I love you as a friend and brother,” I respond quickly, my focus returning.
Yet, my heart would not be stilled.
How could I say I love Him selflessly?
How could I say I love Him most?
I denied Him when He needed me most.
But Jesus continued,
“Feed my lambs, Simon.”
His words brought a new scene to mind. It was winter, and we were listening to Jesus as we walked the grand colonnade of Solomon’s temple. His words, as always, had arrested my wandering attention.
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers… The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:1-10)
Feed His lambs? But He is the Good Shepherd.
Besides, I’m a fisherman. What does this mean?
I still can’t look Him in the eyes.
He knows me, He knows I denied Him three times, He knows I turned my back on Him.
How could He even ask if I love Him?
Jesus was speaking again, insistently, “Simon, Son of John, do you love me with a love so strong you will put Myself before you?
Do you love me with a love so passionate, you would protect My truth and build others up with it?"
My heart flew to another impossible invitation by the Lord as we’d stood by the Sea of Galilee.
It was my fishing boat, my empty nets, and His winsome offer…
“Hello, Peter. Would you do me a favor and let me get in your boat?”, Jesus asked.
I noticed the crowd of people behind him, moving closer and closer to Him.
His only other option would have been to stand in the sea.
“Yes! Of course. I haven’t caught any fish anyways; my boat is empty.”
He asked me to row out, then He stood and began speaking to the people. I tried to listen as He talked, but I’d been awake all night fishing, exhaustion was setting in.
Suddenly, He had my full attention as He’d turned His gaze on me,
“Put your net out to catch some fish.”
I was embarrassed; I’d caught nothing after an entire night’s worth of work, but who was I to say no?
“I’ve been fishing all night and caught nothing, but I’ll try it again for you,” I shrugged and tossed the nets overboard. After a moment, my nets began to tug and tear! Fish flooded my nets! I whistled to our boating partners, and with all of our might, we pulled loads of fish into our boats.
There were so many we began sinking!
I’d been wondering how I would make money today and this Miracle Worker brought in enough fish to cover my wages for days!
It was then I knew, I knew He was Lord!
I fell to my knees, fully aware of my unworthiness and utter sinfulness; I’d begged Him to leave. How could He even associate with me?
“Do not be afraid! From now on, you will be catching men.”
I caught those fish that day, but I gave them to another local fisherman.
Instead, I chose to follow Jesus… this man who was Lord.
The same one I later denied…
“Jesus, You know I love you as my friend.” I dug deep for a response to His incessant questioning, my sorrow continuing to burn hot in my belly.
I loved Him with everything in me. But how could I convey it?
Before I could attempt a better response, He instructed.
“Tend my sheep.”
Or was it an invitation?
Either way, He knew exactly the story His words would bring to mind.
“Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost? And on finding it, he lays it on his shoulder, rejoicing.”
Jesus would leave ninety-nine sheep just to go after one.
He would do that for me, for anyone.
He loved the wealthy and the poor, the Jews and the Gentiles, the adulteress and the leper.
He was more than Jesus Christ to me, He was my Lord, and my friend.
Jesus saw my eyes return to His, my fish breakfast long since forgotten.
“Simon,” He questioned slowly for the third time.
“Do you love me as your friend and as your brother?”
This time it was different.
This time, He knew the answer, and my heart was shattered.
What’s more, I knew the answer.
I knew I just simply loved Him, and that was enough.
Wherever He took me, whatever it cost, whatever the task, I loved Him.
“Lord, You know me; You know everything. You know I love You.”
Again, He invited and commanded, “Feed My sheep.”
“Simon, the cost of following Me is your full surrender. You may lose physical freedom, but you will truly be free. FOLLOW ME.”
Our eyes locked and I knew the depth of this invitation.
I was forgiven.
He trusted me with His sheep.
I was to make fishers of men, continuing to extend the invitation I’d been given.
Why would I say yes?
I loved Him.
He loved me.
Simon Peter’s life is one of transformation and sanctification that we get to watch transform through the pages of Scripture. From the quick and wordy fisherman who was called by Jesus, to the wise and heroic martyr and was an essential piece of the founding of the Church, Peter shows us that even when we fall, even when we deny Jesus, He isn’t finished with us. God’s plan for us is deep and wide. We can accomplish His purposes because of His unconditional love.
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