THE POWER OF LOVE
"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.' 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.' 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.' “John 21:15-17.
This was not Peter's first encounter with Jesus after the resurrection. He had seen Him in the Upper Room on the morning of His resurrection. He had been there a week later when Jesus reassured Thomas that He was really alive.
I think that Peter did not doubt that Jesus had forgiven Him. He did not take off and commit suicide like Judas had done. He knew his Master well enough to know that He would forgive him for his failure. After all, hadn't Jesus answered his question about forgiveness, 'Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother for the same sin against me?'
So what was this encounter all about? It was not about forgiving Peter; it was about Peter's future. How did he stand with Jesus with regards to his calling? Would Jesus trust him enough to count him among His disciples or must he step down and go back to his fishing? What were the thoughts that were running through his head when he saw his Master cooking breakfast on the beach?
There was significance even in that simple action. Jesus was inviting His disciples, all of them present there because they had all deserted Him at the critical moment, to a fellowship meal. Eating together meant relationship - reconciliation - nothing to disturb their togetherness. And Peter was also invited. They were all in it together; failure and restoration.
But Peter needed to have his nagging insecurity settled once and for all, and Jesus knew it. Would He put Peter through a period of probation, a time to rebuild trust in him? Would He suspend him from service for season so that Peter could be "rehabilitated"? Would He demote him to a lesser status, a sort of "tea boy" for the others?
Peter was shocked at Jesus' question; not "Why did you do it?" or "What do you think I should do with you?" but "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Three times the same question! It was not what he had expected. Perhaps he would have felt better had Jesus given him a good dressing down and suspended for a while. After all, he was guilty and he needed to be punished, but "Do you love me?"
What was Jesus doing? He was redirecting Peter to the core of his future ministry. Nothing but love for his Master would steady him in the days to come when all hell would break loose against him. He would need the same power of love that held Jesus steadfast to Him mission in the face of hatred, antagonism and opposition - the power of love - to keep him loyal to his Master even in the face of a brutal death. It was Jesus' love for the Father that kept Him true to His commission, and so it would have to be for Peter.
An invisible bond as strong as a spider's silk, held Father and Son together through every human experience Jesus had to endure. Now it was Peter's turn to learn the power of that love. Not even love for the sheep would hold him - only the power of Jesus' love flowing back to Him through Peter.
"Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like a blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
"Many waters cannot quench love, rivers cannot sweep it away. If one were to give all the wealth of one's house for love, it would be utterly scorned." Song of Solomon 8:7.
So sang the beloved of her lover, and this is the love that Jesus had for Peter. "Peter, my love for you is as strong as death, burning like an unquenchable fire. Peter, do you love me?" No amount of discipline or rehabilitation will hold our hearts to Jesus when we fall - only the love that holds us in an unbreakable bond. That alone is the foundation of our calling. "Do you love me? Then take care of my sheep."
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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