(“Jesus’ Charge to Peter,” stained glass window, St. Edith Church, Bishop Wilton, photo by Roger Walton)

The Tenth Station–Jesus Forgives Peter and Commands him to Feed His Sheep

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You forgave Peter and called him to greater things.

As Peter stayed in the periphery of the group, his heart ached and his mind was going back and forth. He wanted to be in the middle of it all and be his boisterous self. But his mind kept replaying the three times he had denied Jesus, the times he hid in the shadows, the times he feared for his own life instead of sticking up for Jesus. Loyalty was important to Peter, and he struggled with his own feelings of disloyalty to Jesus and to himself.

Jesus had noticed that Peter had been strangely quiet and a little distant. Sometimes he would notice Peter sitting at the far edge with that look of a person wanting to say something, wanting to express joy, but being “held back.” He came up to Peter, put his hands on both his shoulders, looked him square in the eye, and said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Peter dropped his eyes obediently, partly because he started feeling tears well up in them. “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

“Then feed my lambs,” Jesus replied. He took a hand and placed it under Peter’s chin, so their eyes met, and cocked his head forward with a serious look. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Now Peter could not hold back his tears. He felt exposed and embarrassed that Jesus was calling attention to him in front of the others. He shook his head up and down emphatically. He didn’t dare look anywhere except Jesus’ face. He didn’t want to see the looks of the others bearing down on him. “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

As Jesus let Peter’s hot tears of embarrassment fall on his hand, he replied, “Tend my sheep.” Then he placed both hands square on Peter’s shoulders and for a third time asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

For a few moments, Peter said nothing and his chest heaved with each breath. Didn’t Jesus get it? Didn’t he understand how hard it was for him to answer when his own heart felt broken by his own feelings of betrayal? That he had denied him and hidden from the truth of who he was as one of his disciples, and now he was being put on the spot? The words came out this time in an explosive, painful sob. “Lord, you know everything; YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU.”

A huge smile crossed Jesus’ face and Peter breathed a sigh of relief as Jesus squeezed his shoulders and nodded at him. “Then feed my sheep.”

Peter’s frustrated look also turned into a big grin. What he thought Jesus “wasn’t getting,” Peter realized HE was finally “getting it.” Jesus was telling to stop worrying about what feelings were between THEM, but to pay that love for him forward.

Leader: Peter told Jesus that he loved him three times,
People: And his three denials no longer mattered.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

Dearest Lord, you know everything there is to know about us,
yet sometimes we act like we are afraid you will see us at our worst.
We act like that recognition of us is a big surprise to you,
and will somehow separate us from you.
We know we are human,
yet think we can live up to the reputation of a deity.
In those moments, dear Lord,
call us out of the shadows,
Put your hands on our shoulders,
and remind us you only wish for us to say we love you
and embody the love of your Son in the world.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!