Third Time is the Charm
John 21:9-19 NRSV
9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught."
11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they knew it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs."
16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep."
17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.
18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when 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."
19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."
You might be familiar with the term “third time is the charm.” In this pericope of scripture it is evident John is using it to help us understand the importance of repetition in the learning process.
John 21:14 indicates this is the third time Jesus had visited with this group of disciples, probably the eleven he had chosen minus Judas Iscariot. In chapter 20 of John we read about his appearing to them, once when Thomas was not there and then again when Thomas was in the group. If Jesus had visited them twice, why a third time?
In the first appearance Jesus tells the group, “as the Father has sent me so I send you.” In the excitement of seeing Jesus maybe they didn’t understand what he was referring too. It may not have been totally clear as to their responsibilities. That is probably why Peter said, “I am going fishing.” Back to the lake, back to the life before they knew Jesus.
Jesus has Peter to sit beside him during the lakeside picnic and ask him three times, “Peter do you love me?” Each time Peter replies, “yes Lord I love you!” Each time Jesus stresses to Peter to Feed or tend his sheep. It wasn’t time to go back to the boats. Jesus lets Peter know he has a new responsibility, the responsibility to share the gospel message.
Is there something that God, through the Holy Spirit, has placed on your heart to do in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ? How have you responded? How many times will the question come to you, do you love me? How will you respond?
Precious God, You speak to us in the midst of a busy world. Help us to clear all the clutter that fills our lives that we may hear your voice clearer. Guide our steps so that we don’t return to our old patterns of life and can serve with a true understanding of your calling and purpose. Amen