One of my favorite stories in all of the Bible is when Jesus asked Peter if he loved him. Just to catch you up, this was after Peter had denied Him three times and then Jesus was crucified and rose again. Pretty big deal.
Anyway,in John 21:15 we see where our story takes place. It says “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon Peter, do you truly love me more than these?’.
Just put yourself in Peter’s shoes. They had just finished eating which no doubt reminded him of the supper in the upper room that had happened not too long ago. When Jesus had mentioned of a disciple’s betrayal he was astounded and said he could never imagine betraying him but Jesus told him he would indeed deny him, not once, but three times! That is exactly what had happened and now here he was staring into the eyes of the man who had conquered death for Him and all who believe.
I imagine he stammered, maybe even looked away when he said “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
I always thought that this was a good answer but Jesus was really asking if Peter agape loved him. The definition of agape love is unconditional love that transcends and serves regardless of circumstances. If that isn’t it the definition of the Gospel I don’t know what is! 🙂
However, Peter told Him he phileo loved Him, which is like brotherly love or close friendship. Basically he was saying, “Sure, Jesus! I love you like a brother.” Sounds kinda puny doesn’t it? But how often do we find God whispering to our souls “Do you agape love me?” and send up a quick “Sure thing! Thanks for that awesome service on Sunday.”
Although Peter’s first answer was strictly in a brotherly love context Jesus still asked something of him. He said “Take care of my sheep.”
Just imagine, the good shepherd looked into his eyes and asked him to take care of his sheep. Wow! What an honor!
The next verse says, “Again, Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’.”
Did you notice the difference in this question? It’s very subtle but instead of calling him Simon Peter he calls him son of John. I can’t help but think he said this to remind him that he knows everything about him. That even though he still carried the guilt of denying Him, He wanted him to know that in Him all sins are forgiven and nothing surprises Him.
But again all Peter could manage to say was “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” I imagine at this point his heart began to race. I know mine does when I read this part of the passage. Peter had just said that he loved Him but Jesus was asking him again. Maybe he was starting to understand the weight of the question being asked of him.
He then hears the familiar words, “Take care of my sheep.”
Maybe he starts to have another flashback. This time to when Jesus told him that it was on him he was going to build his church. All the pieces were starting to fit into place. Just one problem, he had admitted to loving Jesus like a brother twice when the question of how much Jesus loved him was undeniable. Is your heart racing yet?
Verse 17 says, “The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’.”
And there it is.
Redemption from the three denials.
More importantly, Peter gets it and finally tells Jesus “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Then Jesus told him “Feed my sheep.”
I love how Jesus was so patient yet adamant to get Peter’s answer. Peter’s relationship to Him was His top priority and it is the same of everyone today too.
Something else that stands out to me is that He talked to Peter one on one. He does the same with us.
The power of the Holy Spirit is limitless but God wants to get to you to point that it is just you and Him talking about everything. The good, the bad, and the ugly. He knows our heart but longs for us to confide him. Besides, isn’t that what the definition of a relationship is?
Don’t get me wrong, seeking Godly counsel is good, even biblical but it’s up to you to define your relationship and commitment to Him. He’s already shown us how much he loves us.
It doesn’t end there! Jesus wanted to know Peter’s true heart so that others hearts could be touched. Which explains his request of feeding His sheep.
He asks the same thing of us.
What will you say?
How will you use the gifts he has given you to feed His sheep?