Love not Lost (John 21:15-19)
John 21:15 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." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." 21:16 A second time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Tend my sheep." 21:17 He said to him the third time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. 21:18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go." 21:19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, "Follow me."
If we love Him, our love is not in vain
We must not be discouraged by our failures nor misdirected by our zeal. However wavered and poor our Christian devotion, at present or in the past, we are not a hopeless case. The resurrected Lord asked Peter only one question [3x]: do you love me? Today, tomorrow and for eternity let us thankful live that response of Peter's: Lord you know I love you.
Our love still needs perfection
Love must be embodied by obedience; and Christ does not overlook disobedience: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments..." (14:15ff). Peter's correction here in Chapter 21 needs to be framed within the new commandment: Christ's love must be our love's model. Christ's love must also come first in order and foremost in importance (chapter 13:31ff)--And only then does our imperfect obedience find meaning. Yet, proudly the world judges us as hypocrites. They are right for once. The shame of our behaviors and even our own weak hearts testify that we do not always conform to Word we speak. But our Lord gladly identifies with those who know they are hypocrites. We must, and can only appeal to that God is the one who knows all... to the one who judges the heart. "Lord you know everything; you know that I love you" (v17).
Our love still bravely follows behind Him
The rooster will crow, again. We will weep, again. But we must take courage and prepare once more for battle. Christ's love is not thwarted. Christ's love is applied through the very work of your hands and feet; through your own personal passions and interests; through your single and our collective voice; Christ's love is through this redeemed humanity. And may His love and our courage reach to the very core and be followed, if need be, even to the death. For all the saints who follow love in His train will live and breath this mighty prayer: Father, grant us grace and mercy to love you more fully.
Malcolm West is a graduate of Lancaster Bible College and an intern with All Saints Church in Lancaster, Penn. www.malcolmwest.wordpress.com