Do You Love Me?
Easter 3 C
Do you love
me? What a question. What words. What poignancy. We hear that
question often in our lives when someone wants assurance from us
that we love them. We ask that question when we need assurance that
we are loved. The question is so basic: Do you love me?
Like many of
you, I enjoyed the musical, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. In that classic
story, there is the old Jewish patriarch by the name of Tevye and
the old Jewish matriarch by the name of Golde (pronounced Golda).
They have been married for twenty-five long years. They have gone
through so much together in Old Mother Russia at the turn of the
century. The following scene between old worn out Tevye and old worn
out Golde is a classic. It flows like this:
(It may be
helpful to warble the following lines as Tevye did in the musical.
Tevye’s voice was a grumbling, rumbling, intonation of the words.
Better yet, maybe two people from the congregation can play/sing the
following scene as the part of the introduction to the sermon.)
"Golde, I have decided to give Perchik permission to become
engaged to our daughter, Hodel."
"What??? He's poor! He has nothing, absolutely nothing!"
"He's a good man, Golde.
I like him. And what's more important, Hodel likes him. Hodel loves
So what can we do?
It's a new world... A new world. Love. Golde..."
Do you love me? (intoned in a style similar to old Tevye)
Do I what?
Do you love me?
Do I love you?
With our daughters getting married
And this trouble in the town
You're upset, you're worn out
Go inside, go lie down!
Maybe it's indigestion
"Golde I'm asking you a question..."
Do you love me?
You're a fool
But do you love me?
Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?
Golde, The first time I met you
Was on our wedding day
I was scared
I was shy
I was nervous
So was I
But my father and my mother
Said we'd learn to love each other
And now I'm asking, Golde
Do you love me?
I'm your wife
But do you love me?
Do I love him?
For twenty-five years I've lived with him
Fought him, starved with him
Twenty-five years my bed is his
If that's not love, what is?
Then you love me?
I suppose I do
It may not change a thing
But even so
After twenty-five years
It's nice to know
question is persistent throughout life. Do you love me? We can hear
old Tevye asking this persistent question to Golde, his wife of
twenty-five years. Tevye wants to know.
is with this mood that we approach the gospel lesson for today in
which Simon Peter, the big fisherman and the leader of the
disciples, is asked that same question by Jesus three times. Do you
love me? Jesus wants to know about Peter’s love.
resurrection scene for today is classic. It is memorable. It is told
by the Apostle John, who is the only eye witness of our four
gospels. In the Gospel of John, we consistently hear juicy little
historical details again and again in his account of Jesus’ life.
Such as the juicy historical details of a bowl full of
vinegar at the foot of the cross. The juicy historical details of
Jesus walking in the temple in the winter in the portico
of Solomon. The
juicy historical details of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus bending
down and writing or doodling with his finger on the ground.
The juicy historical detail that when Jesus was on the cross,
the blood and water spurted out of Jesus’ side when his
body was poked by a lance of a Roman centurion. Again and again, the
Gospel of John has given us juicy little historical details from
Jesus’ life, juicy little historical details that could only be
reported by a first hand witness who was there on the scene. Such as
John himself. The story for today is again full of those
juicy little historical details.
us look at the details of the story for today. Would you please take
out your bulletin insert and have a pen or pencil ready to scribble
notes on the page?
these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples.
Circle the word, “showed.” And write the word,
“revealed.” Circle the word, “again.” This is the third time
in the Gospel of John that Jesus revealed himself to his disciples.
The first was to Mary Magdalene in the garden and the second was to
doubting Thomas and the other disciples. We know these famous
stories. We know the Mary Magdalene story and we know the doubting
Thomas story (from last week’s sermon).
the Sea of Tiberias; This is
the Sea of Galilee or Lake Galilee. Only in John’s gospel is it
called the Sea of Tiberius. John 6:1. We don’t know how the
disciples got back up north eighty miles to the Sea of Galilee after
the events of Good Friday and Easter. But this scene occurs not in
Jerusalem, but up north eighty miles. The disciples are back home on
their home turf. By reading the story too quickly, you may not
realize that the location of this story is eighty miles north of
Jerusalem and Lake Galilee.
showed himself in this way.
there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael
of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his
disciples. Count them up: there are seven disciples. Write the
number: seven disciples. Nathaniel was part of the inner twelve
disciples but we heard about him in John, chapter 1. The sons of
Zebedee are James and John. The “John” is the beloved disciple,
the unnamed author of the Gospel of John.
Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ Peter was back to
his old home and his old lake and his old fishing grounds and he and
his buddies were going fishing.
to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the
boat, but that night they caught nothing. We can see all these
fishermen out in a boat. It must have been a big boat to get all
seven disciples in it. Archeological studies tell us about an boat
from 2000 years ago that was found in the shores of the Sea of
Galilee, and that boat was twenty-six feet long. Yes, all those
disciples all could have been in one boat.
after daybreak, We are at the crack of dawn.
stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was
Jesus. Initially, the disciples did not recognize Jesus. We will
soon discover that the boat was a hundred yards out in the water,
and from a hundred yards, you often don’t recognize the identity
of someone on the shore.
said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They
answered him, ‘No.’ How did Jesus, from a hundred yards off
shore, know that they didn’t have any fish? This theme of Jesus
“knowing everything” is woven throughout the stories of Jesus.
For example, before it happened, Jesus knew he was going to suffer
and be “lifted up” onto a Roman cross. He knew by what kind
of death he was going to die. He also knew in advance that he
was going to be raised on the third day. Yes, the gospels tell us
that Jesus knew everything including that the disciples didn’t
have any fish in their boat even if they were a hundred yards off
shore. He also calls his disciples “children” and he does this
repeatedly in the book of I John.
to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will
find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it
in because there were so many fish. The right side of the boat.
Circle the word, “right.” It is another juicy little historical
detail by an eyewitness. Fish often gathered in large schools in
Lake Galilee and it seems the disciples were into a large school of
fish…on the right side of the boat.
disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, Underline
it. Circle it. Here is the author of the fourth gospel. He refers to
himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved.
the Lord!’ John is the one who first understands what is
happening. The disciples are experiencing a miracle similar to what
happened in the story of from the Gospel of Luke, chapter five,
about fishing all night and catching nothing.
Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for
he was naked, and jumped into the sea. There is one commentary
about the Gospel of John that stands heads and shoulders above all
commentaries. Raymond Brown, a Catholic scholar, wrote this
commentary. Brown tells us that Peter was not literally naked or in
the buff but that the Greek word can also mean, “lightly clad.”
Near the word, “naked,” write the word, “lightly clad.” It
was a fisherman’s smock and “Peter tucked it into his cincture
so that he could swim more easily and he dove into the water.” You
can feel the details in this scene written by John, the beloved
disciple because he was there, recording what he saw in his mind.
You can also feel the impulsiveness of Peter.
other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish,
Again and again, John gives us several good historical details. The
other disciples remain in the boat. The net is full. The boat is
dragging the net.
were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. Literally,
the boat was 200 cubits off the land. A cubit was a Jewish
measurement. We translate the 200 cubits and it was about one
hundred yards off the land. A nice historical detail.
had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, Circle the
word, “charcoal.” We also recall that Peter was around a
charcoal fire in the home of Caiaphus, the high priest, the night
that Peter denied Jesus three times. We are getting warm. That is,
the clue is being laid for us. This resurrection story is about
Peter who previously denied Jesus three times and is now going to be
asked by Jesus three times, “Do you love me?” There are two
charcoal fires in John: here and on the night in which Peter denied
Jesus three times. Again, a historical detail.
on it, and bread. It was like the resurrected Christ was going
to have fish and bread for breakfast. We recall a similar
resurrection story from the Gospel of Luke that the resurrected
Jesus took a piece of boiled fish and ate it so they would see that
he was not a bodiless ghost.
said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just
caught.’ So Simon
Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, You see the detail.
It is Simon who went on board and hauled the net to shore. Like
always, it was Peter who was making the first move.
large fish, Circle the word, “large.” We as fishermen are
usually mentioning the word, “large.” It is a nice little juicy
fifty-three of them; According to Raymond Brown, the best
scholar and exegete on this text, interpreters have argued for
centuries about the meaning of the number, 153. Nobody can find any
legitimate and reasonable interpretation of the number 153. Brown
finally concludes that an “authentic eyewitness … was
present.” What does the number 153 mean? Nothing except that an
eyewitness was present who counted the number of fish. “How many
did you catch today?”
We can understand that comment.
though there were so many, the net was not torn. The net in Luke
5 was torn but this one wasn’t.
said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’
of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they
knew it was the Lord. That makes sense to us. We would keep our
mouths shut too, wondering what was happening.
came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with
the fish. Some scholars suggest that this event was like Holy
Communion but with fish rather than wine. I don’t think so. John 6
is clearly the most powerful passage in the New Testament about Holy
Communion, when Jesus says “whoever ends my flesh and drinks my
blood will never die.” This passage in John 21 is not about the
Eucharist, from my point of view.
now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was
raised from the dead. Circle the word, “third.” In the
Gospel of John, the first resurrection appearance was to Mary
Magdalene in the garden. The second resurrection appearance was to
doubting Thomas and the disciples.
had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Now, we are
getting into the action, and the point of the story.
son of John, do you love me more than these?’ Underline,
“more than these.” And write “boats, nets, fish, food, family,
friends.” My guess is
that Jesus was referring all of these things that were there on the
shore. Why did Peter deny Jesus three times in the first place?
Wasn’t it to protect his skin, to protect his own life? Wasn’t
it because he instinctively did not want to die? Why didn’t Peter
want to die? I think it was because he, like all of us, loved life
and the things of this life such as family, friends, fish, boats,
nets, etc. Peter loved
this life and he didn’t want to die. It is simple as that. That is
why I think Peter denied Jesus in the first place. He loved the
things of life way more than the possibility of his premature death.
asks us that same basic question: Do you love me more than
these? Do you love me more than your family, your
friends, your occupation? This is a personal question for
each one of us. We, too, like Peter, will come to that time and
place in our lives when Jesus will ask us that fundamental question:
Do you love me more than these things and people?
to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Good. Peter
has it right.
said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Peter becomes the good
shepherd who is to feed and care for the Christian flock. That is
what the faithful church of Christ always does: feeds and cares for
the flock. If you love Jesus, you feed the flock. The flock of Jesus
are like little lambs and need to be fed the Word, Jesus, the Bread
time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ We
can hear the persistent sound of Tevye’s voice. Do you love me?
This is the issue. Jesus wants to be assured that Peter loves him.
Jesus is not sure about the reliability of Peter’s love and so
Jesus asks Peter a second time, “Do you love me?”
to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus wants
to be assured that he is loved, just as Tevye wanted to be assured
that he was loved by Golde. There are times in our lives and in our
spouse’s lives where we want assurance that we are truly loved
more than any one else. That is what is going on in this text. Jesus
wants the assurance that Peter loves him more than anything else.
Jesus wants assurance from us that we love Jesus more than anything
said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ If you love me, take care of
my sheep. Feed my sheep. Take care of the flock that is entrusted to
to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ The
story is classic. Jesus is persistent. A third time Jesus asks the
same basic question that Tevye asked of Golde and we often ask of
felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love
said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love
you.’ Yes, it has proven to be true. Jesus, our Lord, does
said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. That is what shepherds do. Feed
the sheep. And that is what pastors also do. The word, “pastor”
is a Latin word, and the word “pastor” simply means shepherd.
The shepherd is to feed and care for the flock.
What does it
mean for us to care for and feed the flock. That is what Jesus wants
from us. We are to care for those around us in need. We are to
spiritually feed each other with the Bread and wine, with the
Presence of Jesus, with the Bread of life. Parents not only provide
food for their children’s bellies but food for their children’ s
truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your
own belt and to go wherever you wished. When you were young, you
Peter could dress yourself, and were free to go about as you wanted,
but now, Peter, you are getting older …
you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will
fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to
go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which
he would glorify God.) Bingo. This is the point of the story. We
finally got to the core. To the kernel. Jesus knows
everything…including the death by which Peter was going to die, by
Roman crucifixion, being lifted up onto the cross. Jesus knew that
eventually, in his old age, that Simon Peter was going to die by
crucifixion. It did come true. Simon Peter died a martyr’s death,
on a cross, in Rome. Peter who had denied Jesus three times at the
home of Caiaphus would be faithful to Jesus onto death. Jesus knew
the future and prophesied about Peter’s future faithfulness and
this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ That is what the
Resurrected Christ wants from Peter and from you and me.
I love that
musical, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. I saw it for the first time years ago,
when Zero Mostel played the part. Zero Mostel was in the original
Broadway cast. So many decades ago, I heard him intone with his
gravely voice, “Do you love me?” Again, “Do you love me?”
And a third time, “Do you love me?” Those persistence of those
questions have always remained in my soul.
And that is
the persistent question that Jesus asks of his disciples? Do you