My friend Sam White shared this message on his blog. I wish to share it with you. Sunday morning I am preaching from John 21:1-19. I may just preach Sam’s message!
God loves us—do we love Him? Jn 21:15-23
Context—A third appearance of Jesus to his disciples after the resurrection. Galilee—beside Sea of Galilee—disciples fishing. Early morning—disciples fishing overnight—Jesus calls out to them about their catch—tells them again where to fish. They have a large catch—then come in and Jesus has fire and food for them.
Reinstatement of Simon Peter—Peter leader of the Apostles and the inner circle. Important that Jesus feels Jesus’ forgiveness and is on same page as Jesus. Would lead their ministry from this point on.
Three times Peter denied—three times Jesus asks Peter whether he loves Jesus. Interesting that Jesus uses different word for love than Peter uses. Jesus word more committed word than Peter uses. Has Peter learned a lesson about himself from the denial?
Before crucifixion, Peter had said “Even though all fall away, I will never fall away.” Discussion had gone on among disciples as to who was greatest of them and who deserved the most important places when Jesus came into His kingdom.
Seems also some competition between Peter and John—even later here we may find that.
First time, Jesus asks, “Do you love me more than these?” Could mean “do you love me more than the others love me,” or “Do you love me more than fishing or vocation,” or “Do you love me more than you love the other men with you?”
Probably the first is best, “Do you love me more than the others love me.” Wasn’t that much of Peter’s statements before—“Even if all fall away, I will never”? Jesus, surely I love you more than the others do!
“Do you love me—with a deeply committed love?” Twice Jesus asks this. Peter respond by saying, “I love you with the love of friend for friend.” Less commitment than Jesus asked.
Last time, Jesus uses the word for friendly love in asking Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter is perturbed that Jesus asked again, but responds again, “You know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus response to Peter’s response, “I love you” is “Feed my sheep, feed my lambs, take care of my sheep.” So, Peter, if you really love me then serve those I love—those I died for—those who need a shepherd. The Good Shepherd would be gone—Peter is now the leader in place of Jesus.
What is Jesus’ saying? Do what is best, not just for you, but for the others I love, if indeed you love me. Sounds similar to the second great commandment, “Love you neighbor.”
What does Jesus do here for Peter?
1. Jesus forgives—Jesus focused on Thomas in the previous chapter—now He focuses on forgiving Peter. “Yes, you denied me three times, but I forgive you three times also. Sin is atoned for—you are forgiven.” What a great relief to Peter!
2. Jesus gives Peter the primary position back—He had been in the first position—Jesus right-hand man before. Would denial disqualify him from that place? No, Jesus reinstates him to that place—God called and God overcame whatever was necessary for him to serve in that place.
3. Jesus also calls Peter to serve—If you truly love me, then serve others I love and others I died for. Provide them with the things a shepherd would provide for the sheep he takes care of. Think of them and their needs and provide what is necessary.
4. Jesus says to Peter, “follow me.” The way to keep from denying Jesus—the key to staying in your position—the way to serve others effectively is what? To follow Jesus. Following Jesus is listening to Him and obeying Him and doing life His way.
Interesting that Peter still struggles with this. He hears of his own death, and asks “what about John”? Jesus says to focus on himself because that is his concern. Comparing himself with another is not to be his focus. Comparison so often gets us in trouble, doesn’t it.
Instead of comparison, just follow Jesus.
You and I are also:
2. Given a place in God’s kingdom
3. Called to serve Jesus by serving others
4. Called to follow Jesus above other people and other things in life.
So according to this question, “Do you love me?” What is your response?
And are you living out of God’s purpose for you—a purpose to serve others and a purpose to follow Jesus above other things in life?
The only one who disqualifies you for service is you. Jesus is willing to forgive, to reinstate us, to give us a place to serve and a way to serve and people to serve. And the way to do that is to “follow Jesus.”