“Simon Peter, do you love me?”
It was more than a theoretical question. Peter had stood by a charcoal fire in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house and denied knowing Jesus. If love includes acknowledging a relationship with someone, Jesus had every right to ask the question. Sitting by a charcoal fire on the beach.
“You know I love you.”
It was the only possible response. Peter had spent three years following Jesus. Now, a few weeks after the denial and the resurrection, Peter was eating fish that Jesus had told him how to catch.
Peter’s response is a combination of what he wishes to be true and what’s he’s afraid to deny again. Like us, he wants to love Jesus. Like us, he’s afraid that he can’t go back to our previous career or life.
“Feed my lambs.”
It makes no sense. “Do penance.” That would make sense. “Make yourself miserable.” That would make sense. Because we want to do something that would appease the gods, that would placate the anger of the almighty.
Instead, Jesus tells Peter to do the work that Jesus himself had been doing. Jesus was the good shepherd. He cared for the sheep. When the hired hands left, Jesus was the one who gave his life for the sheep.
And now Jesus was telling Peter, three times over, to pick up the work that he, Jesus, had been doing. Because he, Jesus, was not going be hand and feet and face available for that work anymore.
When we are feeling like we’ve failed and we need to make amends, it’s entirely possible that Jesus isn’t interested in amends. He may want us to get busy doing his work of mending relationships with God and others.
Because, whether or not we understand it, He took care of making amends.