Scripture: John 21:15-19
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." He 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." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved 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 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."
Meditation: The Lord Jesus asked Simon Peter and he asks each one of us a very personal and profound question - do you love me more than anything else that might be very dear to you? How can the love of Jesus Christ be so attractive and so costly at the same time? Jesus on many occasions spoke to his disciples about the nature of God's unquenchable love. God is love (1 John 4:16) because he is the creator and source of all that is true love. His love is unconditional, unmerited, and unlimited. We can't buy it, earn it, demand it. It is a pure gift, freely given, and freely received. God's love doesn't change or waver. It endures because it is eternal and timeless. Itís the beginning and the end - the purpose for which God created us and why he wants us to be united with him in a bond of unbreakable love. And itís the essence of what is means to be a son or daughter of God the eternal Father.
The Lord Jesus shows us that love is a personal choice and a gift freely given - it is the giving of oneself to another person for their sake. Unselfish love is oriented wholly to the good of the other person for their own welfare and benefit. John the Evangelist tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave us his only-begotten Son" (John 3:16) who took on human flesh for our sake and who died upon the cross for our salvation - to set us free from the power of sin so that we might receive abundant everlasting life and peace with God.
God's love heals and transforms our lives and frees us from fear, selfishness, and greed. It draws us to the very heart of God and it compels us to give him the best we have and all we possess - our gifts, our time, our resources, our full allegiance, and our very lives. Paul the Apostle tells us that Godís love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us (Romans 5:5). What can quench such love? Certainly fear, sin, pride, indifference, disbelief, and the loss of hope and trust in God's promises and his mercy towards us.
Do you love me more than these?
Why did Jesus question Peter's loyalty and love three times in front of the other apostles? It must have caused Peter great pain and sorrow since he had publicly denied Jesus three times during the night of Jesus' betrayal and condemnation by the religious authorities who had sought to kill him. Now Peter, full of grief and deep remorse, unequivocally stated that he loved his master and was willing to serve and obey him whatever it might cost. When Jesus asks him "do you love me more than these?" Jesus may have pointed to the boats, fishing nets, and catch of fish from the night's work. He may have challenged Peter to abandon his work as a fisherman for the task of shepherding the community of God's people. Jesus may have also pointed to the other disciples and to Peter's previous boast: "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away" (Matthew 26:33). Peter now makes no boast or comparison but humbly responds: "You know that I love you."
The Lord Jesus calls each one of us, even in our own weakness, sins, and failings, to love him above all else. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) in his Confession wrote: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you! ...You shone your Self upon me to drive away my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me... and in astonishment I drew my breath...now I pant for you! I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me! - and I burn to live within your peace" (Confession 10:27).
Nothing but our own sinful pride and stubborn wilfulness can keep us from the love of God. He loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding graciousness and mercy towards us. Do you allow God's love to fill your heart and transform your life?
"Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your love and burn away everything within it that may be unloving, unkind, ungrateful, unholy, and not in accord with your will. May I always love what you love and reject what is contrary to your love and will for my life."
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that
me, bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.
20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word!
"Christ rose again in the flesh, and Peter rose in the spirit
because, when Christ died in his passion, Peter died by his
denial. Christ the Lord was raised from the dead, and out of his
love he raised Peter. He questioned him about the love he was
confessing and entrusted him with his sheep. After all, what
benefit could Peter confer on Christ by the mere fact of his
loving Christ? If Christ loves you, it is to your advantage, not
Christ's. And if you love Christ, it is to your advantage, not
Christ's. And yet Christ the Lord wanted to indicate how people
ought to show that they love Christ. And he made it plain enough
by entrusting him with his sheep. 'Do you love me?' 'I do.' 'Feed
my sheep.' All this once, all this a second time, all this a third
time. Peter made no other reply than that he loved him. The Lord
asked no other question but whether he loved him. When Peter
answered, our Lord did nothing else but entrust his sheep to him."
(excerpt from SERMON 229n.1.4)
from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard
Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of
Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches
of Christ in the United States of America. Used by
permission. All rights reserved. Citation references
for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can
be found here.
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