He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
It is the question Jesus will continue asking us our whole lives: “Do you love Me?” Quite likely, if we are truly men and women of faith, it is a question we will ask ourselves. We will seek affirmation of our devotion to our risen Lord. As disciples of Christ, it is a question that we cannot avoid, one that weighs upon our hearts, one to which our Lord already knows the answer. But if Jesus already knows, why does He ask? He asks not for His benefit, but for Peter’s.
Simon, son of Jonah, had been through a lot since that first day when Jesus said to him, “Follow Me.” The rough and ready fisherman followed in his Master’s footsteps to become an itinerant preacher and healer, and he grew in faith and in service to his Lord. But when Jesus was arrested, Simon Peter denied Jesus three times and then, his faith bent but not broken, he fled. On the day of Jesus’ resurrection, Peter was the first to enter the empty tomb, and he came away from there wondering, hoping, his faith gradually strengthening. Then the risen Jesus appeared to Peter and the rest of the disciples–even to doubting Thomas–and then they KNEW that it was true.
30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book;
31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
But for a disciple of Jesus, for an apostle of God, simply believing isn’t enough. It was time for one more lesson for Simon Peter. And so Jesus gave Peter his very own commission, much like the Great Commission that Jesus had spoken to all the apostles. (Matthew 28:19-20 , Mark 16:15) Peter’s commission was to feed and tend Jesus’ flock. Easy enough, we might say, but in order to fulfill that mission, there is one essential requirement: love.
1 Corinthians 13:1-3
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) That is the anchor for all of our faith. Fear, awe, respect, reverence for God–they mean nothing if we do not first LOVE God. And this love for God the Father must extend to God the Son and God the Spirit. Three-fold love–heart, mind, soul–for the Trinity–Father, Son, Spirit. And Jesus asks three times, “Do you love Me?”
Do we love Jesus with all our heart? Our emotions are fickle beasts, drawing us this way and that in our lives. Our hearts are easily deceived, not terribly bright. Our hearts are proud and bold, weak and timid, loving and hating with equal abandon. But Jesus’ lesson is that we should only ever LOVE. Forget all else, and just love. Love friends, neighbors, family, enemies, foreigners, widows, orphans, and especially God. If we love, then all the rest just falls into place.
Do we love Jesus with all our mind? We pursue knowledge for all kinds of reasons. We seek knowledge of the universe to understand our place in it all, and we seek medical and scientific knowledge to supposedly make our lives better. But do we seek knowledge of our Lord and Savior? Do we love Him as much as we love baseball stats or pop culture news? Do we love Jesus as much as we love our work or our pastimes? We will show our love for Him when our goal is to grow in our knowledge of the Lord.
Do we love Jesus with all our soul? Jesus asked the questions, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Our souls must belong to Jesus, sold out to Him alone. Our eternal selves must be committed to Him, so that whether we lose our mortal life or keep it, we will always have eternity with our Lord.
“Do you love Me?” He asked Peter, and Peter was grieved because he felt like Jesus doubted him. He truly did love Jesus, and he knew that Jesus was aware of that. “Lord, You know all things,” Peter said to Jesus. Only one being could truly know all things: God. Peter is essentially saying, “You are God, and You know I love You.” Three times Jesus tested Peter, and three times Peter answered true. Will we?
Where is our love in this life? What things are important to us? Does our love for Jesus shape how we love others, or does our love for the things of this world shape how we love Jesus? God truly does see into our hearts, and so, no matter how we answer aloud, He will know the truth. “Do you love Me?”
This is another day made by the Lord our God, another day for us to seek His mercies, another day to show our love for Him. As Paul wrote, right now we have faith (in our Savior) and hope (for eternal life) and love (for God and each other), “but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) And if we so love Jesus, let us show it through our lives. Let us keep asking ourselves that question, and keep answering “Yes, yes, yes, my Lord.”
Precious Lord God, Father of mercy and grace, thank You for Your love. We love because You first loved us, and so let our lives be shaped by loving You. Keep asking us, Lord, so that we never become complacent, so that we become grieved that we could ever love anything else before You. Help us to know Your love, and help us to love You in return. Amen.
© 2014 Glenn A. Pettit