Jesus and Peter
When Jesus had said to Peter for the first time: “follow me”, it was a call to know Jesus. During the time that he spent with Jesus, he had known Jesus, as a Rabbi. He would obey him, cast nets according to his wish and was ready to accompany Jesus wherever his master took him. He was by the side of Jesus, when the dead girl was brought back to life, during the moment of Jesus’ transfiguration, and even when Jesus went to pray in the garden of Gethsemane, and so on. The moment of transfiguration was the moment of Glory. The moment of raising the dead girl too was a moment of God’s glory and a moment of joy for everyone. The time of his prayer in the garden of Gethsemane was a moment of deep anguish and pain. In short, during every important event in the public life of Jesus, viz., in times of glory, joy and sadness, Peter too was specially chosen to be with Jesus.
It is important to note that Jesus’ calling of Peter was not a call to glorify Peter but God. The denial of Peter was a moment of trembling and fear. When he had denied Jesus, he was afraid and could not glorify Jesus. Now, after the Resurrection of Jesus, Peter is called to express his love as a commitment which won’t waver even amidst physical sufferings and death. So, in the end, Jesus tells him, “Follow me”.
Envisage the agony of Peter, who denied his master in front of the servant-girls. Even though the cock crowed after his first denial, his fear had overcome him and most probably, he could not pay attention to the cock’s crowing. He denied Jesus two more times. When the cock crowed a second time, he regained his presence of mind and realized his mistake and broke down and wept. This is Peter, who was called by the Lord “Rock”, upon which the Church, the mystical body of Christ, was to be built. Peter was to play an important role to take the legacy of his master forward (to the whole world). Therefore, Jesus calls him again to give witness to him courageously, shedding off his fear and doubt.
Now he has encountered the Risen Lord, who walked with him, who talked to him, who commanded him to walk on the water or ‘to cast the net to the right side of the boat’ after having caught nothing the whole night (Jn 21:6). It was this same Jesus whom he encountered for the first time while fishing. Jesus had said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch’ (Lk 5:4-5). Peter answered, “Master, we have worked all night long, but I have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets”. There is a similar yet deeper experience now for Peter.
During the post-Resurrection appearance, Jesus questions his disciple’s commitment to take up a more challenging mission. After the denial, it is the Risen Lord who appears to him now and asks him: “Do you love me more than these?” It is a question to reflect for Peter, to question the depths of his love. It was he who had denied him, not the other disciples. The Lord asks him again: “do you love me?” Peter is asked to check on his answer. The Lord asks him for a third time: “Do you love me?” Peter was really at pain when his loyalty was questioned for the third time by the Lord. However, such an interrogation, reminded Peter of Jesus’ merciful love, and strengthened him from within to give glory to God, even if he was to lose his life. He would not waver again before anyone. He is now ready to die for the Lord.
To give witness to Jesus, one should have deep-rooted love for the Lord, especially for someone who wavers in front of trifle things. Every suffering transforms us from within. One should not linger on the past failures. It is only when our answer comes out of an encounter of the Risen Lord, a strong conviction will guide us forward. ‘Even if we fail him, he cannot fail us’. Amen!