Thursday, June 1, 2023

            In John 21:15-19, we read about Jesus’ efforts to “reinstate Peter.”  The Lord had prepared breakfast for Peter and the other disciples who were at the seashore.  When the meal ended, Jesus reached out to Peter with a question.  “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? (John 21:15b).  Two more times, in a slightly different way, Jesus asked Peter the same sort of question (see John 21:16-17).  Each time, in his own words, Peter answered affirmatively.  Three times Peter replied with words like these, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:15b-17). 
            Jesus’ questions were not small matters.  Having known that Peter denied Him three times, Jesus quizzed Peter about the sincerity, reach and depth of his love three times.  Peter’s three responses match the three denials.  But not in the sense that three “I love you” statements offset three denials.  Possibly Jesus wanted to draw out of Peter what He believed to have been there all along—a love as deep as the water where Jesus had commanded Peter to drop his nets and fish.  “Do you love me?” is a loaded question.  It calls for more than a flippant and facetious answer.  It takes us to the recesses of heart, mind and Spirit.    
            The Lord knew life was about to change for Peter and the other disciples.  Jesus’ return to the Father meant that the work of spreading the gospel and launching the Church would fall to the disciples—including Peter.  “Do you love me?” served as almost a status-check.  Are we ready for the next step?  Opposition would be fierce.  Disbelief would still blow as strongly as any Middle-East windstorm.  The enemy would do anything to derail the good news of the victory that Jesus had won at the cross.  Peter would need more than his wits, big promises or physical strength to make it.  He would need to be grounded in a love for Jesus and all that Jesus had done.  We generally give our hearts, minds and lives for the things and people we love and cherish.  Rarely, do we make such sacrifices for the things we merely “like.”  Love calls us to a much higher level of loyalty and sacrifice.
            Only love for Jesus would see Peter through the perils and pitfalls that he would encounter in the early days of the Church.  Jesus even gave him a little preview of what was coming.  The Lord said, “’Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’” (John 21:18-19). 
            Jesus just may have been asking Peter two very important questions.  First, “Peter, do you love me enough to live for me?”  And second, “Peter, do you love me enough to die for me?”  To change one’s life demands love.  To go to one’s death demands love.  Living for Christ and dying for Him are both expressions of love—deep, abiding and non-negotiable love.  Jesus’ last command to Peter in John’s gospel was a familiar “follow me” (John 21:19b).  To love is to follow.  And to follow is to love.  We cannot do one without the other.  In his own words, Peter ended his role in John’s gospel with a win and a warning.  In his own words, the win came when Peter clarified his love for Jesus three times.  His words were clear, concise and confident.  The denials from days earlier had been dialed back.  A reset or reinstatement had happened.  The warning came when Jesus assured Peter of what that newly professed love would require.  He would have to feed lambs and take care of sheep—not literal animals but the Lord’s people; present followers and those who would come to faith and believe.  But he would also have to face persecution and hardship.  The journey of following in the footsteps of Jesus would not be easy for Peter.  It is not easy today either.
            What does your love for the Lord require of you?  Where do you sacrifice?  Where do you need to die to the old self and the old ways?  The test that we face about our love for the Lord will likely be much different than the one Peter encountered.  We will not be quizzed directly by Jesus standing alongside a familiar seashore.  Our love is tested, sifted, refined and measured daily as we live for Him and die to all other things.  Our love is scored by what we leave behind for His sake.  Our love is defined by the cross we are willing to carry and the hills of faith upon which we are willing to give ourselves and even die.  “Do you love me?” might be the hardest four-word question we will ever have to answer.  The ultimate and final answer is found not so much in what we might quickly say but more so in what we are willing to become and how far we are willing to go for His sake.  Have a great Thursday!  Remember you can worship any time at                          

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