A sermon given on the Third Sunday of Easter, at the 8am BCP Eucharist and 10.30am Choral Eucharist by The Right Reverend Chris McLeod, Dean

Text: John 21: 1 – 19

‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’

Reconnecting with someone we may have disappointed is a difficult and challenging task. The temptation is to try and justify our actions or our failures, or we might and try and ignore any sort of confrontation and pretend that nothing had happened.

Peter had let Jesus down when he denied him three times in the courtyard of Caiaphas’ house (John 18:25 – 27). As we read the story, we see that not only had Peter let Jesus down, but he betrayed himself as well. Jesus possibly regards this as a failure of love. Jesus now challenges Peter to declare his love for him not just once, but three times, and subsequently reversing Peter’s threefold denial. He calls him Simon, son of John, not by his nickname ‘Rock’ (Petros). Simon needs to regain Jesus’ trust again if he is to be worthy of being the rock on which the church is built. 

  • The obedience of love

The risen Jesus does something noteworthy here. He does not demand that Peter obey him; he asks Peter whether he loves him. Peter’s failure was not one of being disobedient, but a failure in love. Peter’s promise that he would not deny Jesus and follow him anywhere we probably the overconfidence of a brash young man. The sort of thing a brash young man says. However, the reality of his own failure and the acceptance of his own humanness enabled Peter to come to the point of seeing that what was being asked of him was love.

  • The Promise

Peter does indeed declare his love and each time Jesus challenges him to care for his people. Loving Jesus means loving those who Jesus loves. Loving Jesus finds its expression in serving others. Peter was now being challenged from focussing on himself and his own self-confidence to serving others. The young naïve and immature man was beginning to grow up.

Invariably, sometime in our Christian journey our own over confidence makes us stumble and fall. At the heart of following Jesus is an acceptance that we are loved and we need to love in return. It is not by our own intelligence or ability that we show that was are disciples of Jesus, but our ability to love. None of this should come as a surprise when we consider that Jesus’ commanded us to love.

John 15:12-17 New Revised Standard Version:

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants[a] any longer, because the servant[b] does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

  • The Consequences

The same challenge is put before us as well. Do we love Jesus? If the answer is yes, then we love and serve the people Jesus loves (which is everyone). The essential ministry of the church is grounded in our capacity to love.