The reason Jesus asked Peter the same question three times in John 21:15-19 may seem obvious. Peter denied Jesus three times just before the crucifixion and now must face those denials. Jesus gently gives him a way to do this so he could move forward.
Not so easily understood is the answer to the question, ‘Why Peter?’ As John J Pilch pointed out in THE CULTURAL WORD OF JESUS, 1997, the Beloved Disciple was shown in a much better light throughout the book. Now suddenly, Peter becomes the #1 disciple. That seems strange. But, as Pilch also wrote, these verses may not have been written by the same person as the rest of the book and may have been added later.
If this is accurate, now we have more questions. Not only do we ask, ‘Why Peter?’ Now we also ask, ‘Who exactly was the Beloved Disciple? Was it John? Was it Mary Magdalene? Who added these verses? Why?’
Scholars have ideas, but not answers. We will never fully understand that which was written centuries ago, the stories told by people of a different time and culture. But questions can be good. Questions can lead us to a deeper sense of possibility and a deeper spirituality.
Perhaps the most important question in today’s reading isn’t any that the reading creates, but rather the question Jesus asked of Peter, and of us. ‘Do you love me?’
For any reading this who are not Christians, please don’t shrug your shoulders and go on. Do you love the Higher Power in your life? And for all of us, if our answer is yes, how are we showing that love in the world?