Summary: When Jesus asks, "do you love me," it fills us with repentance and an eagerness to show our Lord that we do love him. Peter was forgiven and given a new opportunity to feed Jesus sheep. Who are your sheep? How can you respond?
August 28, 2005 Proclaim Peace Through Jesus - in Love - based on John 21:15-19
After Jesus rose from the dead he asked Peter three simple questions - “do you love me?” When Peter answered with a resounding “yes,” Jesus then replied, “feed my sheep.” Although this reinstatement to ministry was primarily a message of Jesus’ forgiveness and love for Peter, it also shows us that love is more than words and more than feelings. Talk is cheap. All kinds of people will say “I love you,” from Oprah Winfrey to Pat Robertson. But ask them to give you ten dollars, and see how far their love goes. When Peter said “I love you,” Jesus wanted him to respond with actions. 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” God calls out the hypocrite within that would like love to end with the tongue and not the hand.
Love is Sacrificial
I. Love calls for sacrifice
When you really love something or someone, you can’t help but do something about it. When a new book comes out from your favorite author, you eagerly await the release date. You buy the book. You read the book from front to back until you’re done. When you go out to eat and the waiter brings you your favorite baked potato, your mouth drools and you eagerly sink your teeth into it. When your child goes to Worlds of Fun and waits in line for the next ride, he can’t help but jump up and down, smile, and eagerly anticipate the next ride. When Stephen saw heaven opened, he couldn’t help but rejoice at the sight.
The opposite happens when you really dislike something or someone. You avoid it like the plague. When I tell my children to clean out the cat litter, oh man do they whine and moan and conveniently “forget” what I told them. When you see your neighbor outside that you really can’t stand to talk to, you do your best to wait until he or she is gone before venturing outdoors. When Jonah was called by God to preach to Nineveh, he avoided it like the plague, because he hated the Assyrians. These actions show whether you really love something or not.
Jesus told Peter to show his love for him by feeding His sheep and taking care of His lambs. Feeding sheep and taking care of them is not a glorious job. Sheep don’t say please and thank you. Sheep are timid and weak little critters. They get spooked very easily. Taking care of them means standing out in the cold and rain at times, going through hillsides and dangerous country just to try and find them. Jesus was not telling Peter to do an easy job or a fun job. He was calling him to do a necessary job. If Peter really loved Jesus, however, he would be willing then to take care of Jesus’ sheep by feeding them.
When I sneak into my children’s room at night and see them sleeping - little soft cheeks lying there on the pillow as peaceful as can be, I get a tremendous sense of love and thankfulness that God has given me these creatures. Sometimes I catch myself gently rubbing their cheeks and appreciating the soft touch of fresh skin. Do I love them? Yes. But five hours later, when those seemingly angelic creatures are running around, fighting, yelling, demanding - “I want berry milk, I need go potty,” and complaining, “why do we have to . . .” my love for them wanes. When this love calls on me to wipe bottoms and wash hair and put on clothes, my love is put to the test. Talk is cheap. Actions are difficult.
The fact of the matter is that love is not always fun or easy. It especially depends on what the object of your love is. It’s easy to love your recliner. All it does is sit there and give you a place to rest. You don’t have to talk to it. You rarely have to clean it. All you do is sit on it. It’s easy to love your television. It talks to you. It keeps you entertained. It becomes more difficult when you have to clean it, move it, and pay for it. Children are more difficult, because they are sinfully selfish. Pets are more difficult, because they don’t always listen. Bosses are not easy to love, because they can be rude and very demanding. Neighbors can be difficult to love - because they can be loud and obnoxious. Some of these - when we have a hard time loving them - we try to ignore. Do you stall coming home from work because you have a hard time loving your wife? Do you look for excuses as to why you can’t spend time with your kids, because it takes work to love them? Do you do your best to avoid phone calls from certain people because you have a hard time loving them?