“Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17), Jesus to “Simon Son of John,” aka Peter.
Jesus, the Creator of knowledge and wisdom, isn’t on biblical record as having asked many questions. Why would He? There is nothing He didn’t/doesn’t know.
But the questions He does ask cut to the core. They force each human answerer to dig deeply within his or her fallen self to discern the bedrock of what they believe about God, Christ, the Spirit, the Law, the Truth, the Scriptures and most importantly, and in the context of, the man standing in front of them – Jesus.
In John 21, the resurrected Jesus provides breakfast for the very surprised – and frightened – disciples. Note Jesus’s sufficiency: He feeds them bread He has already prepared, and fish the disciples caught after Jesus told them where to cast their nets.
After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter: “Simon son of John, Do you love me?”
This is not a challenge but a major reset – a “do-over” – for the fiery disciple. In two other places, Jesus calls Peter “Simon son of John.” Upon first meeting Simon (John 1:42), Jesus declares He will call him Cephas, which translates as Peter and means “rock.” Later, when Peter is first to identify Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:17) – another beginning – Jesus adds, “on this rock I will build my church,” etc.
Bible geeks dig into this – OK, I’m one of them – and note Simon was Andrew’s brother, Andrew was one of the first two disciples (the other was probably Gospel writer John) and the father of Simon (and Andrew) is identified as “John” in John 1 but as “Jonah” in Matthew 16. The name and early discipleship are not vital. What is vital is that the impulsive, unstable and emotional Peter – the opposite of Andrew, incidentally – was anything but a “rock” as a disciple but what Jesus knew Peter would become.
So, why is Jesus asking Peter, “Do you love me?”
Because the night Judas betrayed Jesus, a frightened Peter three times denied being a disciple of Jesus. Now days later, facing the resurrected Jesus, Peter is again addressed as “Simon, son of John.” Why? Because Jesus is going back to the beginning of Peter’s discipleship and of Peter’s understanding. Jesus, in other words, is starting over. He forgives Peter’s betrayal and restores him with the single most important question in human existence: “Do you love me?”
Church doctrinaires argue endlessly about what is essential, proper and sufficient in Christian life. It seems Jesus covers it all with one question:
“Do you love me?”
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) believes many things are important, but only Jesus is sufficient. And look what else, sinners … you can come back.