John 21:15-25 Love is a commission
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again 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, “Shepherd My sheep.” 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!” Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. John 21:15-25
In this episode, we see Jesus consummating the message of love: love must lead to action. Despite Jesus’ appearances in His resurrection body and sending them out into the world, Peter remained unmoved; partly due to his earlier failure where he denied his loyalty towards Christ. However, it is Jesus’ personal, gracious and persistent approach that won Peter over. Jesus’ message centers on love and commission; true love expresses itself through an action. Jesus said, “If You love me… tend my sheep”.
1. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” In this question, Jesus posed a challenge to Peter between two loves: “these” (referring to the catch of fish) and Jesus. As Peter was already a believer, Jesus was not challenging him to make a decision pertaining to salvation but to the call to live as Christ lived. “These” refers to the pursuit of self-centered living and life’s comfort. Loving Jesus involves putting aside life’s comfort and to “carry the cross”; to make known the salvation of Christ to the world. Jesus was not specifically asking Peter to abandon the fishing trade (else He would not have taught Peter how to catch fish) but to put God’s mission as the centre of his life. One could continue with his particular vocation and at the same time be involved in the work of winning souls. However, if one is “forced” by practical demands of ministry or called by God, then one will have to make a choice. It is impossible for one to spend much of his time in a third world country as a missionary and expect the same remuneration as say a full-time banker.
2. Peter was grieved because Jesus said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” Peter was grieved because he was reminded of his three-time denial of Jesus as his Master. Jesus specifically asked Peter three times in order to invoke a deeper meaning to the confession of love towards God. Love is expressed through obedience to His instructions: “Tend my sheep”. As Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commands” (John 14:15).
Jesus’ instructions for Peter: “tend my sheep” is specific to Peter’s call as an apostle to oversee the church. We also knew when Jesus said, “Follow me”, He referred to a life fully dedicated to God’s commission and for Peter, to suffer martyrdom in his later days.
3. Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” In response to Peter’s query regarding John, Jesus responded that it was none of Peter’s business. However, Jesus hinted that John would not be martyred like the rest of the disciples. John as we knew wrote the book of Revelations when he was exiled to the island of Patmos.
4. This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. The gospel of John was written by a disciple of Jesus. As compared to the other gospels, this is a first-hand account; it is not compiled from word of mouth material that were passed on.
1. One could own much wealth and yet love Jesus more than his possessions. Hence, Jesus asked Peter, “do you love Me more than these?” He was referring to the state of the heart. As Peter went home that day much enriched by Jesus, he also became an Apostle and in his later days, a Martyr of the church.
2. Love and commission must come together. True love causes one to seek out God’s commission and obey them. Jesus’ three inquisitions: “Do you love me?” in succession was deliberate to lead Peter towards the end of love, which is obedience. Truth must necessarily lead to obedience. It is apparent that Peter was willing to give his life for Jesus although he had not yet fully understood himself. But why did Peter hesitate in responding to Jesus’ challenge in His earlier appearance? (John 20:19). Jesus did not say anything new to Peter, but a familiar reminder and assurance of love and commission. Although Jesus’ third appearance at the Sea of Tiberias had less impact than His first, but that transformed Peter to cause him to follow Jesus. Love and commission must necessarily come together. God blesses us so that we can be channels of blessing to others.
3. It is in the daily discipline of reading the Word that we encounter Jesus personally and receive truths specifically meant for us. Peter did not commit his life to God despite Jesus’ first and second appearances in His resurrection body. However, Peter responded and gave himself to God’s work on Jesus’ third appearance. What made Peter change his mind? I believe it was Jesus’ personal message to Peter that gave him a breakthrough in his love relationship with Jesus. What Jesus said to Peter was tailored specifically for him alone. Therefore, believers must never depend on Sunday sermons alone to develop their love relationship with God. It is absolutely important for believers to read the Word for themselves on a daily basis. It is in the daily discipline of reading the Word that we encounter Jesus in a personal way. And He will speak to us concerning our future and what we should do. In Jesus’ first and second appearances, He broadcasted a common message to all disciples to send them out. In Jesus’ second appearance, He dealt with Thomas personally and addressed the inadequacy of his belief system. I believe Jesus before His ascension also dealt with His other disciples according to their peculiarity and calling.
1. Do you provide a budget out of the excesses from your income to fund outreach programmes in your church? Resources are useful when they are utilized to give life to those who need it and to lift the poor out of poverty. Excesses from our wealth cannot be translated into heavenly riches. It may provide physical comfort, but it cannot add an ounce of joy to our life. As we learn to give because of what Christ has done for us, we will receive many blessings in return.
2. How do you respond to the words spoken to you by the Spirit? Many pondered over it for a few minutes then blot them out of their minds. Perhaps, you could write them down and meditate upon them. You will begin to hear more and more of His voice and your relationship with God will grow deeper. His conversations with you will grow more profound and deeper in detail.
3. How do you respond to the blessings of God? When is the last time when you receive some good news and respond with an offering towards the work of God?
Dear Lord, continue to speak to me in greater detail as I try to journal the words that you spoke. Thank you for blessing me as I continue to use Your blessings to do Your work. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.