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Pastoral 2012

Lovest Thou Me?

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So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me” (John 21:15-19).

The Lord’s desire concerning our relationship with Him

Three times the Lord Jesus asked Peter whether he loved Him. He would not have asked that question three times if He did not desire that Peter would love Him. Our Lord rejoices to know that we love Him. One thing that we must ensure in our relationship with the Lord is to love Him and to express our love for Him in words and actions.

This conversation between the Lord and Peter occurred after the Lord rose from the dead. Surely the Lord could not have forgotten that Peter denied him three times before His death (Matthew 26:69-75). Now that He is resurrected, the Lord wanted Peter to confess his love for Him most assuredly. Though Peter denied Him three times; in this encounter the Lord gave him three opportunities to declare his love for Him.

It would have been only just if the Lord decided to forsake Peter altogether after he had denied Him three times. However, the Lord’s great love once again sought to draw Peter unto Himself. The Lord expressed His love for Peter and the other disciples who were with him by preparing them a meal that they might be refreshed after their long toil at sea to catch fishes (John 21:2-15a).

It was because of His intense love for Peter that He wanted to know whether he loved Him. Any loving parent can testify to this truth that it is because they love their children that they want to know whether their children love them too. When my children respond to my loving gestures towards them with words such as “Daddy, I love you very much”, my heart rejoices because my love for them is appreciated. Likewise, our loving Lord desires that we will love Him too.

We can love Him sincerely only after we receive His love in our hearts. “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). It is all because the Lord loved Peter immensely that He wanted Peter to confess his love for Him. O how tender is our Lord’s love for His saints!

Hence God’s Word lovingly commands us to love the Lord wholeheartedly. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5; cf. Matthew 22:37- 38). “Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God” (Joshua 23:11). It is the Lord’s desire that we, His people, will maintain a loving relationship with Him at all times.

The Lord’s expectation concerning our love for Him

We noticed that our Lord inquired three times about Peter’s love for Him. The first time He asked “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” Jesus wanted to know if Peter’s love for Him was more than his affection for those things that surrounded him then, namely fishing boat, fishing net, fishes, etc. The early part of this chapter records that it was Peter who led the disciples to go fishing. “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately…” (John 21:3). Had he forgotten the fact that the Lord had called him to become a “fisher of men” (Matthew 4:18-20)? Christ’s death and His absence seemed to have caused Peter to fancy his old vocation again. Being the leader in the company of Christ’s disciples, Peter’s personal decision had a great influence on others and they joined him in his old trade. This appeared to have caused them to ignore their duty of preaching unto which Christ had called them and trained them for over three years. Could it be that their devotion to Christ and His work had been fading? It was important that Peter learned that it was impossible for him to love the world if he wished to serve Christ. So the Lord asked him, “Lovest thou me more than these?”

Our love for Christ must be undivided and full of earnestness. Jesus Himself said, “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13).

Let us look into our hearts and see whether we have been loving something more than our Lord. Have we been loving our jobs, business, degrees, houses, cars, social status, wealth, computers, hobbies, sports, entertainment, etc. more than our Lord? Do we love ourselves more than Christ? Jesus said, “He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:25-26). If we have been sacrificing our time and energy which is due unto the Lord for the things of this world, then we have a strong word of caution from the Lord – “Lovest thou me more than these things?” Christ alone must be the preeminent object of our love.

Our Lord has also told us that “he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). Luke records our Lord as saying, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). We must not love any other person more than our Lord. Christ does not regard those who esteem their relationship with others more important than that with Him as worthy of His love. True lovers of Christ should never cherish any relationship that will put their relationship with Christ secondary.

The second and third questions were similar: “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Though two different Greek verbs for “love” were used in these questions, the ideas in both questions were the same. Then why did He repeat the question? Obviously, the Lord felt that it was necessary to repeat the question. He was emphasizing the importance and urgency of loving the Lord with a pure and sincere love.

Dear reader, can you say honestly that you have been loving Him with a wholehearted love? Have you loved Him with all your mind and strength? Christ demands a love that is fully devoted. How else can we love Him, but by fully devoting ourselves to Him as the object of our true love?

Love for the Lord facilitates service

To all of the three questions asked by the Lord, Peter answered positively, saying, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” Though every answer was essentially the same, the last answer contained more of his thoughts towards the Lord. He said, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” His love for the Lord had grown so intense by now that he said the Lord knowest the truth of his claim that he loved Him. Peter knew the omniscient Lord knows the exact state of his devotion to Him. If He knows that Peter’s love for Him is genuine and growing in devotion to Him, then that is all that finally matters.

After each of Peter’s answers, the Lord exhorted him to do the work that was committed to him, by saying, “Feed my lambs” and “Feed my sheep.” The Lord invites only those who love Him to do His work. True love for the Lord will facilitate our commitment to serve His flock.

 

 

Pastoral Exhortation