Love is something that we all seek and desire. Often when that desire is not fulfilled, we struggle with loneliness. As a single person, I have often thought that I am lonely since I am not married. While being in a committed relationship is a wonderful thing, even that cannot completely fill us, because we are meant for perfect love. Obviously human love is far from perfect. This is why God is so relevant today. We are only healed and made whole by perfect love - a love that can only come from God.
In the sermon this week, we read from John 21:15-22. Jesus asks Peter a very pointed question: "Simon, do you love me?"
Before we look at why Jesus asked Peter that question, I find it very interesting that Peter isn't the one asking, "Jesus do you love me?" Oftentimes in our insecurity, we question whether or not God really loves us.
But Peter does not ask Jesus this, because Peter knows that Jesus' love for him was settled at the cross. I John 4 tells us that God is love. God the Father loved us so much that He was willing to give His Son, God the Son loved us so much that He was willing to give His life for us. That's a lot of love!
So what is Jesus asking? Is Jesus insecure? Of course not! God does not "need" our love. God existed in perfect relationship (Father, Son and Spirit). We are created from God's desire to share that perfect love with us.
Jesus asks Peter this question three times, because in Luke 22, Jesus predicted that Peter would betray Him three times. And to Peter's shame, Jesus' words came true. In this conversation Jesus' questions and Peter's response is a symbolic way of undoing Peter's denial. This is Jesus' reinstatement of Peter.
What is Peter's response to Jesus' questions? His response is simple and direct: "Yes, Lord you know that I love you." Peter's answer is a firm yes. Not "maybe", or "I don't know" or "I'm not sure." Peter also refers to Jesus as "Lord." Peter is affirming Christ's leadership and authority in his life and His deity.
In all these questions though, Peter does feel hurt. John 21:17 reads, "Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time..." I think Peter was hurt because he was reminded of his failure. But the reason Jesus allowed Peter to fail was so that Peter could experience the full measure of His grace. And that would allow Peter to be the humble shepherd that Christ is seeking.
Each time Peter responds with his love, Jesus tells Peter: "Take care of my sheep." Jesus is entrusting Peter with a great responsibility. Peter is being transformed from a sheep to a shepherd. I believe Jesus didn't choose Peter because he was the "best" disciple but because Peter understood grace and mercy.
What is Jesus saying to you this week? Do you love Jesus? How would you respond to that question? In what way will you live out that love this week? Who are the sheep that Jesus may be calling you to care for?