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Jesus said to Peter, "Do You Love Me?"

We are meditating on the last chapter in the Gospel of John, an epilogue by John to let us know what happened concerning Peter's failure, his 3-time denial of knowing Christ. John desires that we all know that even though Peter failed under pressure, the Lord fully restored him. It gives many of us hope amid our failures that, yes, we too can be used by God even after we have fallen into sin. Here’s the passage of Scripture we are looking at:

15When 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.” 16Again 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.” 17The 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).

Jesus lovingly asked Peter a question, “Do you love me more than these?” Most Bible scholars give two distinct possibilities as to what "these" refers. The Lord could have been referring to the other disciples with whom he enjoyed such close fellowship, but He also could have been referring to the nets, boats, and fish where Peter had spent most of his life making his living. Perhaps Peter was wondering if his 3-time denial disqualified him from serving God. With the Lord, though, brokenness is part of the training. The Lord had no sharp criticism for Peter and asked him the only question that matters, "Do you love me?"

There are many things that Peter may have been expecting Jesus to say to him, but I don't think he expected to be asked about his love for Christ. When Jesus asked Peter the first time, He asked him if he loved Christ with agape love. Peter responded by saying he loved Christ with an affectionate love, avoiding using the self-sacrificial Greek word agape. He was no longer self-confident and admitted that alongside the tender agape love of the Lord, his love was insufficient to be described as agape love. For each of the three denials, the Lord asked him three times as to his love for Him, “Do you love Me?” This is the heart of all ministry that God’s people do in His Name—is it done out of a personal and abiding love for Christ?

The most significant thing that people can say of a man or woman at their funeral is that they loved the Lord. Andrew Kuyper said, "Even the heart of God thirsts after love." This kind of love is the overriding message of the Bible, in my opinion, the desire of God to enjoy a love relationship with His bride—true believers in Christ. A person without true love for God has never really understood what happened at the cross of Christ, the only response of which can be to love in return. A mature believer has seen what it cost the Lord to buy him out of Satan’s slave market of sin.

Peter's restoration was complete. The rest of the disciples had witnessed it. This reinstatement was necessary because the Lord called Peter to feed and care for the flock of God, and he needed the respect, fellowship, and support of the other disciples. Jesus set the stage by building a charcoal fire similar to when Peter denied his Lord. There had been three confessions of love to answer for the three denials of Peter and then three commissions from the Lord.

We need to grasp that Christ's love for Peter was just as strong and just the same as it was before his denial. We are not loved any less for our failures. The important thing is that we make love our focus and return to the Lord every time. We are to rebound from sin and failure back into the grace of the Lord Jesus and His calling for our lives. Peter did respond to God's calling for his life and was powerfully used by God and eventually martyred for his faith.

Prayer: Father, we remember the great man of God that Peter became through his trials and how much You used him, despite his shortcomings. Would You continue to work in each of us and mold us like clay so that we may be more like You and accomplish the things You have prepared for us? Keith Thomas

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Taken from the Bible study in the Gospel of John: 42. Jesus Reinstates Peter


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