15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 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. 18 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.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
Have you been asked the ‘do you love me’ question? From a girlfriend or boyfriend? From your husband or wife? From your fiance? If so you may identify with the conversation that starts the above scripture text. If not, you’ve at least seen something like this in a movie or sit com. One partner asks the other, ‘Do you love me?’ in hopes of an honest response. Well, the hope is that they say, ‘Yes, I love you’. But are those words the only thing they want to hear? Or are they really wanting to get to a deeper issue; the issue being that one person in the relationship may not be seeing enough evidence of this said love. Or, is this question a challenge for love to grow stronger and go deeper?
You’ve heard it said before that love is a verb, an action – it’s not a thing (a noun) you obtain, but a an action (a verb) you do or exhibit.
Jesus is getting down to this very thing with Peter. They’ve come a long way together and gone through many experiences together. Jesus is now readying himself to leave earth (we know this as the ascension) and depart from this disciples. As he does this Jesus wants to emphasize with Peter what his love for him must look like. This love that Peter so quickly says ‘yes’ to has got to be more than a lip service or a quick ‘love you too’ kind of love. This love that Jesus calls Peter to is one that must be backed up with action. What’s the action Jesus is calling Peter to? Feed his sheep. Jesus wants Peter to take care of the ones from whom Jesus’ is departing – the disciples and anyone who will begin following Jesus.
This is Peter’s calling, but is it ours? Yes and No. As we see in the following verses, Jesus tells Peter that his life and John’s life will be different. Their callings are different. There sacrifices different. Their call to follow and love is the same, but how it’s fleshed out is unique to them. In the grand scheme of things, they are both called to love Jesus’ sheep, but this becomes Peter’s distinction.
What does this mean for us? How do I read this text as some who’s following Jesus today? I think we can understand it in similar ways and apply it to our context.
Jesus is asking us a similar question: Do you love me? Sometimes he’ll have to ask us more than once (insert smile emoji). When the question comes our way, how do we respond? With words or with action? Will we actually show love for Jesus in tangible ways or will we simply respond with a ‘yes, I love you’ or ‘love you too’ or ‘of course I do, you know that’. Jesus is a master at asking questions, more so he’s the master at getting to the heart of the matter. So know that our response, like Peter’s, must involve more than words. Our response requires us to ask ourselves a follow up question, ‘How do I love Jesus and how does my love for Jesus get fleshed out in my life?’. More importantly, how am I called to love Jesus? What does that uniquely look like for me?
Remember that this text from John is post-resurrection. Why is that important? Because it reminds us, as we’ve talked about before, that life and calling flow out of Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection launches us forward into the life we are called to live. Discovering this calling is an adventure in itself – living this calling…well that’s the greatest adventure of them all.
(this post was inspired by a talk given by Chris Chase at The Village on April 10, 2016)
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(smaller group discussion)
What about this portion of scripture spoke to you? Any inspiration? Any resistance?
What do you think about the question ‘Do you love me’? How is it a loaded question? How is it a pointed question?
What’s scary or adventurous about the potential response to this question from Jesus?
Do you think that because the Disciples have seen Jesus’ sacrificial love on the cross and experienced the power of his resurrection, that it was an easier question to answer? If so why?
How does this text connect to last week’s talk on ‘post-resurrection’ living? (reference to the 3rd part of our Easter series, ‘before, after & after that’.)
Take some time to pray with and for one another.