“Do you Love Me, now that I can dance” was a song performed by the Contours in 1964. There is a delightful YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrlafREM_pE) to go with the song.
Now what might that have to do with John 21? One of the deficiencies of the first followers of Jesus was their need for a validating sign, a proof, that Jesus’ teaching and way to peace and justice was worth risking everything. Some of them had left behind employment and personal security to follow him down the roads and through the villages, even into the great city of Jerusalem. It’s not entirely surprising that they wanted reassurance. First Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities, perhaps to force a sign as much as for compensation. Then Peter, after Jesus’ arrest, denied him not once but three times, another betrayal of loyalty.
I reflected this week that everyone wanted Jesus to dance to a different tune, to be something other than a man, or simply show “his moves” to the authorities. Even in this anecdote in John 21, when Jesus asks Peter if he can love him with the kind of passion with which Jesus loved God, Peter demurs. Instead of the word agape that Jesus uses, Peter responds with the word, philios. I love you like a friend.
So then, despite the possibly implied disappointment in Peter’s response, Jesus sets him on a mission. Now interestingly, the text says that it is Peter who is disappointed because Jesus does not seem to trust his answer.
We continue to be disappointed that Jesus does not provide proofs, that we still must respond to his question, that we are still stuck between waiting for him to dance, and having the world instantly transform into his likeness.
So what do we take away from this story? First, I think some of us will relate more to the
historical Jesus, the apocalyptic prophet, or the healer, or the inclusive, open friend to women, children and the poor. Some of us will relate to the suffering servant who gathers all the pain of the world into his arms on the cross. Others will look to the Christ, the sacred figure who united heaven and earth, who promises a future in which pain and sorrow will.
Some of us will be blinded by the love we have for the human Jesus or the divine man, and will entirely commit our lives to his service. Some of us will love him more than anyone else, but maintain some distance. Some of us will only form a passing acquaintance, but still name ourselves his followers. There is space for us to intensify and release. There is room to learn and deepen our understanding of him. Some of us will tango and some of us will waltz with him, but always he will be stretching his love and his life to us, for us and with us. Let’s dance.