Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. 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.’
Do you love me?
It’s an uncomfortable question to be asked.
After all, it usually implies that the questioner is unsure of your love or that they are about to ask you to do something because of that love.
It was Jesus’ question to Peter. And perhaps it is a question for us as we move towards Good Friday. ‘Do I love you, Lord?’
Here on the Galilee beach, this is the third time that the risen Lord asks. Why was twice not enough? Peter’s answer is the same, ‘You know that I love you’. But, hurt, he adds, ‘You know all things’.
We can’t know precisely why Peter adds those words, but they feel almost like a confession: ‘You, Lord, know all things. You know all about me. You know my strengths, weaknesses, besetting sins, failures, joys, temptations, potential, past, present, future… you know all things.’
And Jesus knows all things about us, too. In Peter’s case, his confession elicits a response from Jesus that must have been deeply sobering and hugely reassuring.
Before the cross, Peter had boasted that he would never leave Jesus, and Jesus who ‘knows all things’ predicted his betrayal. Now, after cross and resurrection, Jesus ‘who knows all things’ predicts that Peter will actually be able to do the very thing his loving heart wanted to do but couldn’t… be ready to die for Jesus.
Yes, Jesus has given him a job to do – feed my sheep. But more important to Peter is Jesus’ total confidence in his future faithfulness – unto death.
And so we see that when Jesus asks a third time he is not seeking to hurt Peter, but to heal him. He is not condemning him for his past failure but reassuring him about a different future. He is ever so with us.
Do you love Jesus?
‘Yes’, we might reply, ‘but not nearly as much as he deserves.’ He knows that. And he knows exactly how far our present love will stretch in trust and obedience.
How far would you like your love for Jesus to be able to stretch?
Don’t just ask him that he would enable you to love him as you want, as Peter did. Ask him, who gave his life that you might have abundant life, to enable you to love him as he would want you to be able to love him – wherever he leads, whatever he calls you to do.
Mission Champion, LICC