Summary: In the same way Jesus checked out the heart of Peter, He speaks to us to check us out. While we are hard on Peter for the denial, the personal question is how many times & in what ways have we denied Jesus?
“Do You Love Me More Than These?”
• Nelson Price is right on point when he makes this statement, “JESUS CHRIST often endures our embarrassing abuse, denial, and betrayal only to come back compassionately to restore us to an even more meaningful love relationship with Him.” However, the road between our fall and His divine forgiveness is a road which many find too difficult to traverse. He offers forgiveness, He wants to forgive, & He even died for our forgiveness, but there is this caveat which somehow gets lost on humanity. It could be called ‘The Road Less Traveled.’ Because the more I read & study God’s word, the more I am convinced that no forgiveness exists where there is no repentance for sin. By repentance, we are speaking of an issue of heart and life. One’s heart has to be so broken over their faults, failure, & sin, that in their life, they are both willing and ready to turn from their sin, & turn to Him. At this point, forgiveness flows like the water over Niagara Falls.
• Once again we look at a very familiar story. Jesus has been crucified, been buried, and now had risen from the dead. Crucifixion day had not been the disciple’s finest hour. In the Upper Room, before the betrayer came, Peter had made the grandioso statement of “Even if everyone else abandons you, you can count on me.” This led to all the 11 remaining disciples to express those same feelings, but certainly not in the same way. Less than 12 hours later, Jesus was on trial, 9 of the disciples were nowhere to be found, John helped Peter get inside the courtyard but was noticeably quiet, and Peter (the one who would NEVER abandon Jesus) not only denied Jesus – but swore a curse in the process. Here’s the deal: Jesus knew what Peter did & Peter knew that Jesus knew as Luke tells. The scripture says that Peter went off & wept BITTERLY!
• The Greek word for ‘bitterly’ is only used for this story (Matt & Luke). In modern day vernacular, Peter was a broken man, a basket case, & had now a bleeding heart. In fact, a discerning reading of the post crucifixion gospels reveals that the gospel writers probably had given up on Peter as he is only mentioned marginally until John 21. (Isn’t that like us, when someone falls we tend to toss them under the bus?)
• As I read the end of John 20, I get the feeling that John was ending his gospel account – when the Holy Spirit said, “John, don’t forget Peter and the last time we had together.” Now we find ourselves where Simon Peter, Andrew, James & John, felt comfortable – fishing. After the encounter of enduring a night of fishing with no fish to show for it, ‘recasting their nets’ at the word of the stranger on shore, and realizing they were in the presence of Jesus, they were enjoying the fellowship & food of our Lord Jesus. (How sweet that food must have been)
• Remember, Jesus is sitting with the crowd who He had given three years of His life, but when the trouble came they abandoned Him. He looked at Peter, knowing that Peter still ached with a broken heart and so much wanted to make things right. So Jesus, like only He can do, asked the questions. He asks us today – when we fall like Peter & desire to become like Peter @ Pentecost.
1. Hard Question – We don’t like hard questions, we prefer easy ones. “What did you eat last night?” “What did you do yesterday?” We love the easy questions. But the easy question, as a general rule, bring few results. Jesus is a life changer, a life-giver, and that is not easy.
• Think about the atmosphere around the fire & food. Probably there was lots of small talk, but no one dare mention the elephant in the room. While everyone there had deserted Jesus in His time of seemingly greatest need, Peter was the one who spoke the words of denial in such a forceful way. I can imagine Peter sitting on the opposite side of the fire, eating, munching, only stealing a glance toward Jesus, and wondering what Jesus would say about his actions.
• So Jesus asked, “Simon, do you love me more than these?” Than these? What are ‘these’ that Jesus is talking about? Could He have pointed at the disciples as if to say, “I remember what you said, but did your actions match your words? They left me but you denied me.” Possibly. Could Jesus have pointed at the fishing boat when He said, “These?” Peter had just led the group by saying, “I don’t know what you guys are going to do, but I’m going to return to what I know best, I’m going fishing.” He almost was saying, “It was a good run & I enjoyed the ride, but now it’s time to return to reality.” Before we jumped on Peter and the disciple too harshly, I wonder if some of them cannot be seen in us. When was the last time you passed the test of stick-a-bility? Has there been a social setting when Christ's modern day accusers were so in control of the moment that you, feeling the heat, betrayed Him? Have you been caught in a circumstance where you were the minority and rather than lose social or business acceptability you forsook Him? Has there been a time recently when you found it easier to be Politically Correct than Biblically right. When Jesus asks you, “Do you love me more than these,” it is not intended to be an easy question, it is one to which we must consider. We cannot ‘love Jesus more than these’ & put ‘these’ ahead of Him.