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Do You Love Me?

December 4, 2019

Thank you for being so diligent in praying for those in need. Our prodigals are precious to our Lord, and revival is so necessary in our lives and in our churches. May God continue to work in a mighty way!

I believe I am safe in saying that no one likes to be rebuked, but it is necessary at times. Jesus shows us how it is done in John twenty-one where He began by reaching out to His disciples. He didn’t wait for them to come to Him. He provided a meal for them and He served them. He was expressing in a real, tangible way how much He loved them. He didn’t just throw down the gauntlet and start combat. No, He showed grace. A lot of grace.

Rebuke must start with relationship. If you don’t have a relationship with someone, you have no business rebuking them. It will only backfire rather than accomplishing the desired effect. Rebuke has nothing to do with power, or position, or getting one-up on someone. Rebuke is about coming alongside a loved one and guiding them in the right direction. It is meant to benefit the recipient and is all for the glory of God.

After His resurrection, before the beach breakfast, the Lord met with Peter in a private session (Luke 24:34) and my feeling is that things were set right at that time. At the last supper in the upper room, Peter had boasted in front of the other disciples how that his love for the Lord was so great he would die for Him. Then, when Jesus was arrested, Peter had publicly denied Him three times. But here, when the Lord met His disciples on the beach, He guided Peter to speak truth about his love for Him. Notice the words of John 21:15-17: 

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." He said to him a second time, "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." 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.” 

Three times Jesus asked Simon Peter the question, “Do you love me?” If someone you knew and professed to love, asked you in succession this question, I think like Peter, you too would be upset. What is going on? Why does he keep asking the same question?

There is an interesting play on words that can only be understood with some understanding of the Greek language. The word Jesus used for love in the first two questions, in Greek is the word, agape. It is a selfless, sacrificial, cross-bearing love. It is deep, strong, and eternal. When Peter answered Jesus, and said, “You know that I love you.” He uses a different Greek word, which is phileo, meaning a family, brotherly, affectionate type of love. Not a less important love, just a different kind of love. In the last of three questions, Jesus asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love (phileo) me.” As you can imagine Peter was grieved. 

What can we learn from this?

Jesus was challenging Peter with the love that gives all, the love that requires full, complete surrender and sacrifice to the person and pursuits of God. Peter wasn’t so sure. There was hesitation. His answer reveals that he wasn’t ready for this yet. Remember his words back in chapter thirteen? “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for You.” But the horror and blood of the crucifixion of Christ brought his whole theology to a grinding halt! Is this what it means to love God? “Lord I do love you with that warm, tender, familial, phileo love, but I’m not so sure about the love that leads to the cross!” Peter had boasted and then failed in his love for Jesus once, and this time he was more careful with his words.

As the Lord pushed him, it seems that the question was not so much, “Do you love me?” but rather, “How far will your love for me go?” Peter was up for the challenge and in the end, this rebuke from Jesus was all he needed. He lived his life, not to perfection, but he lived it in full, glad surrender to Christ.

In fact, Peter died thirty to thirty-four years after the death of Christ.  According to Smith’s Bible Dictionary, there is,

Satisfactory evidence that he and Paul were the founders of the church at Rome and died in that city. The time and manner of the apostle’s martyrdom are less certain. According to the early writers, he died at or about the same time with Paul, and in the Neronian persecution, A.D. 67/68. All agree that he was crucified. Origen says that Peter felt himself to be unworthy to be put to death in the same manner as his Master, and was, therefore, at his request, crucified with his head downward.

Peter's life and death answered the question of his love for Jesus with a strong "Yes!" 

We would do well to ask ourselves, “What about me? Do I love Jesus? How far is my love willing to go?”

Through His grace,

Bryan and Rachel


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