Do You Love Me More Than These? Peter Finds Healing on the Shore


Praise be to you, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!
In your great mercy you have given us new birth into a living hope
     through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead! (1 Pet. 1:3)

I receive your Holy Spirit, the Resurrection-Spirit-of-life within me,
     and I attune myself to your work of awakening hearts, including my own,
     to experience your transforming love.

In Jesus’s name I come, amen.

John 21:1–7; 15–19

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. . . .

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”


What kind of miracles most grab our attention? Aren’t they miracles of the body, where a disfigured limb is restored, sight or hearing is reclaimed, or a disease is dispelled from the body?

We are drawn to celebrate miracles that seem most beyond our human control, beyond our human capability to effect change. Visible miracles that take place in the body feel somehow more substantial than those that are hidden—miracles of the heart.

But they are not. Miracles of the heart have moved great mountains throughout history, and are the only miracles that can ultimately save the human race—or an individual within it. They are awakening miracles.

Early one morning following Jesus’s rising from the dead, a morning not unlike Easter morning, the disciple Peter went out to fish. As the mystery of the resurrection unfolded in the lives of the disciples, they began to get back to work.

This return to the familiar, even the necessary work of feeding families and anchoring life in some sort of normalcy in the midst of delightful-yet-disorienting events, must have seemed like the next right thing to do.

And yet, for the risen Jesus, there was a quiet miracle of the heart to be performed yet that mattered for one person—and for the Great Commission that was just around the corner.

Peter’s heart was the one on the resurrected Christ’s agenda that morning. If Peter was going to be one on whom the church would be built (Matt. 16:18), he would need his own miracle to be able to move forward.

The memory that preceded that moment on the beach would have stayed hot on Peter’s mind, as it would for any of us. He had denied Jesus three times around a fire similar to the one created by Jesus on the beach (John 18:18,25). On the night of his arrest, right when Jesus most needed Peter’s presence, his stability, even if only for those around him—Peter gave in to fear.

When we give in to our fears, and make the wrong choices, inward shame is often the result. We may come to despise ourselves, especially when someone we love has been hurt by our acquiescence. As one person described it, “Shame is not the feeling that you’ve done something wrong; it is the feeling that you are something wrong.” Shame says, “You are not enough. You will never be enough.”

Though Jesus has appeared to the disciples, and has had personal moments of connection with Mary, Thomas, and even two disciples on the Emmaus road, Peter is yet to have his.

He is fishing with others, and just like a time earlier (Luke 5:1–11), they have been out all night and have caught nothing. Jesus is on the shore, and tells them to throw their net on the right side. John immediately catches on; the similarity to a previous time is not lost on him. He proclaims, “It is the Lord!” and, just like that, Simon Peter is in the water!

Could it be that Peter knew it was his time, and he was ready to get to his healing as quickly as possible? There are few things that can stop a hurting child from getting to the one that can minister to them.

Only Jesus could forgive what needed to be forgiven—and Peter knew the moment was now.

There are many details that follow, but let’s move to what Jesus says to his treasured Peter. In a sequence of three questions, possibly correlating to Peter’s three denials before the crucifixion, Jesus orchestrates an inner-miracle of the heart in Peter.

“Simon son of John, do you love me?” comes the question. Three times it will come, in a similar form. Jesus and Peter will use different Greek words for love in their exchange, until the last one, but let’s put that aside for the moment.

“You know that I love you,” are the common words in Peter’s three responses.

Jesus is asking Peter questions, but it is not Jesus who needs to hear the answer—it is Peter.

Peter must hear himself say “You know that I love you,” three times to counteract the three denials he had spoken in his earlier moment of fear.

We can only guess that looking into Jesus’s eyes as he asked the penetrating question three times, with each of Peter’s responses holding its own moment of quiet, yet vital healing, Peter was slowly feeling the shame of his denials lifting off his heart.

Jesus concludes the reinstatement of Peter through a forgiveness unspoken, at least in the text we have (forgiveness can be unspoken, but still be crystal clear) with a call to shepherd in the way of the Great Shepherd.

For Peter to move past his worst memory, Jesus knew he must be set free from his shame. In Peter’s responses to Jesus, he was less convincing Jesus of his love (“Lord, you know all things”) and more convincing himself.

Sometimes we need to hear ourselves say what is true about ourselves for our healing from inward pain to be complete. “Lord, you know I love you” was what Peter needed to say, and needed to hear.

Peter receives the commission for which he was made. He will pastor as he has been pastored, he will feed sheep new and old, all coming into the Great Shepherd’s fold—and Jesus will be doing the pastoring through him.


Risen Lord of the Forgiven Life, you have shepherded us, like Peter, so well toward our healing. Just as Peter was set free from his shame by a conversation with you, we welcome the conversation of the heart that leads us to wholeness and healing. Reach into our past, and speak your transforming word. We will be made whole. In Jesus’s name, amen.


Was there a moment when Jesus lifted shame off of your heart and set you free to move forward? If so, what did you feel like before that moment, and after?

For the Awakening,
Dan Wilt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

One Response

  1. “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality.” –Ephesians 4:19.

    Turning away from the sensuality of our human desires, feelings, and opinions and keeping our heart wide open to the presence, intimacy, and Lordship of the risen Jesus is the great miracle all humans need.

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