Simon Son of John let us pray….. Rev. Stuart Buisch
What’s a name? If I said Clive Staples you might have no idea who I am talking about but some of you hearing C S Lewis immediately know who I mean.
John writes that Jesus addresses Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John’. Is this a typo that was never corrected? Jesus gave Simon the name Peter early in their meeting of each other. Peter was to be a rock, not one who denies ever knowing Jesus. This rock tries to tell Jesus he won’t die and gets called Satan. There sure are loads of names being thrown around. So when Jesus addresses Peter, Simon son of John is he reminding him of his roots or is he asking him how far he has come?
Surely his question, “Do you love me more than these?” is not a reference to the 153 fish that were just caught. However, it does seem that Peter has given up on the disciple gig. No Jesus around, no need for Peter to be around. Back to the beginning- fishing.
No, ‘the these’ must be a reference to the other disciples, the other ten, Judas isn’t alive. His choice. The Messiah who continually talks about forgiveness has lost one to suicide and a second to fishing or so it seems. Jesus must be just checking out the commitment of his disciples starting with Peter – no Simon, son of John. The ‘rock’ is sand.
We are what our roots are. Ever notice we don’t have resumes on the disciples. Just one liners – fishermen, zealot, tax collector, friend of a friend. So Jesus goes back to Simon’s roots but not to Andrew. Andrew was the one who heard John the Baptist call out to Jesus and he followed after him. Andrew got his brother Simon and took him to Jesus. Who was the last person you brought to Jesus? O I know you talk about Jesus at meal times, you talk to church folk about Jesus but anyone else?
The sanctuary is empty now. The church isn’t empty. People call me to tell me things to pray for. People send in offerings. Church members call, send cards, notes. The mad keen ones go on line and listen to two or three sermons on different web sites or Facebook live. But at North Presbyterian there are some silent church folk. I want to believe they are busy with their faith but maybe like in this story in John, Jesus questions Simon not Andrew or James or any of the others.
Let’s get back to the question. The three-fold question. Do you love me? First two times it is the word love that speaks of a compassionate, Godly love. The third time it is simply a friendly love. As if Simon has forgotten Jesus’ call on his life, Jesus reminds him to feed lambs, take care of my sheep, and finally feed my sheep.
Clearly Simon wasn’t texting during this exchange, although it does seem that Simon is preoccupied. Only when Jesus changes the work from amazing love to friendship does Simon figuratively look up and get annoyed. The classic line is, ‘You know everything’. If indeed Jesus knows everything why this exchange? By the way I believe Jesus did know everything and still does. This exchange is for us. What’s our love life like? What will we devote time, money, compassion for? What jerks us out of a self-consumption and makes us notice others? What lifts our eyes off of today and tomorrow and makes us look toward the end of our lives and make us say, ‘really this is what I want out of my life?’ This is enough?
Are each of us back to our pre-baptism name, our pre–Christian self-understanding and just trying to get from first cup of coffee to bed time without hurting anyone? Honking at that unmasked driver? Tired of our four walls and of those individuals who keep infecting others because they don’t care? We have no excuse to return to our ‘first names’ and to the behavior of our childhood. How far have we come in all those years? How far are we willing to go.
Each one of us is able to embrace these questions ‘do you love me?’ and choose our answers whether we see Jesus in those around us or not. But we don’t embrace these questions in our heads. We must answer this question with our lives.
When we draw our final breath a short time from now or decades away makes no difference. The difference is who are we feeding, who are we tending? How do our lives answer the question of love.
Jesus closes this interaction with Peter most curiously. When you were young you clothed yourself and went where you wanted. The day is coming when someone else will cloth you and take you where you do not want to go. That has everything and nothing to do with Peter. That has everything and nothing to do with us. Some evil ones draw their last breath in between dreams at night. Some lovely compassionate souls struggle on machines still trusting God for the ones they love.
Then Jesus says, ‘follow me.’ Whether we like it or not people can see who we follow. Like Peter we want to say what about them, as Peter does looking at John – who recalls this story, as I did earlier in this sermon. ‘Them’ doesn’t matter. We are called like Simon son of John to follow Christ. Each of us sees that command differently. But I am only called to follow the Christ in front of me. I don’t have to follow your Jesus or someone else’s. But everyone can see who I follow. Amen
Holy God, forgive the time we waste…
Gracious God, let your love strengthen each one in their journey this day…
Compassionate God, open each set of eyes to your presence in the place they are…