John 21:15-17

In John 21:15-17 Jesus has a very intimate interaction with Peter.  Jesus had met with Peter individually on the day of His resurrection, but a public restoration was also needed.  You’ll recall that Peter denied knowing Jesus three times on the eve of the crucifixion.  So Jesus is now rebuilding the important relationship they had together before that series of events. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus waited until the entire group had finished eating before He takes Peter on a journey to discover their relationship again.

Jesus began by asking a simple question: do you love me more than these?  It seems like a strange questions He asks Peter to compare his love for Jesus with that of the other disciples.  Remember that Peter had earlier claimed a very deep and all consuming love for Jesus.  Peter answers as you would expect. “He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” But Jesus response was maybe not what was expected.  For Peter to follow through with his love for Jesus, he must give himself to the service of God’s people.  It isn’t enough to say he loves Jesus.  Love needs to be lived out.

Jesus goes on to probe again. “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.” The first time Jesus asks about Peter’s love He tells him to ‘feed my lambs’.  This time Jesus instructs Peter to ‘tend my sheep’ which is a deepening responsibility in the service of the people around him.  But wait, there’s more. “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.”

This time Peter doesn’t really like the question.  After all he’s answered it twice already.  What really grieved Peter was the three-time repetition of the exact same question focused on his love and commitment to the Savior, because it was a plain reminder of his previous three-time denial on the evening Jesus was being arrested before His crucifixion.  It’s painful stuff.  Jesus allowed Peter a three-fold public affirmation of love to replace a three-fold denial, and gave him a three-fold challenge to serve those in his patch by feeding and tending to those around him.  That’s how we show our love for Jesus.  We serve people just as He did.  We show love as we love others.  That’s how Jesus knows any of us love Him!

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