Summary: The test of Peter’s love and commitment to Christ.
Rev. John W. Gerald
John 21:14. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
Jesus showed himself to individuals, as Mary Magdalene, and the two on the road to Emmaus, but not to all of them. He appeared to them in the upper room, and in Galilee.
I. THE TEST of LOVE
Peter’s love was tested in several ways, as our own will be. We must prove our love for Christ daily, as it is compared to many other things.
A. LOVE OF CHRIST COMPARED TO LOVE OF THINGS
Jn. 21:15. So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
The disciples had just finished a night of fruitless fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had told them to cast the net on the other side, and they had caught 153 great fishes. They were surprised and amazed! They had caught nothing on their own, but with Jesus’ help, they had made a great haul. Jesus had made the difference. He will make the difference in our lives, too. These things could have easily meant the fishing nets, tackles and boats. He had come to depend upon them since he was young. They were the means of his livelihood. Things can interfere with our work for the LORD. A young Christian has the responsibility of taking care of the little ones. "Feed my lambs." Peter was just recovering from his sin of denying the LORD.
B. LOVE OF CHRIST COMPARED TO LOVE OF PEOPLE
16. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Jesus did not say "things," nor did he say "these." But it is clear that he was asking Peter if he loved him more than his other companions. "Peter, do your love ME?" Does Jesus have first place in your life? Could anyone else come ahead of Him? If they could, it would interfere with your main responsibility of "feeding the sheep."
C. LOVE OF CHRIST COMPARED TO LOVE OF SELF
17. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
Peter had hedged a bit, but Jesus was getting to the bottom of the matter. "Peter, do you love ME more than you love yourself?" Peter was becoming uncomfortable with the depth of Jesus’ questioning. He was plumbing the depth of Peter’s soul. Was Peter’s commitment deep enough to be the leader of the band of His disciples? "Peter, do you really love me?" No wonder Peter was grieved at the persistent questioning of Jesus. Peter had denied Jesus three times, could he confirm his love for him as many times? Could each affirmation answer a denial?
II. THE FUTILITY OF SELF-RELIANCE
18. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
Peter should have learned that he could do nothing without Jesus by now. This says a lot about each of us. There may have been a time when we did pretty much as we pleased, but the time will come when that will no longer be the case. As we become more feeble with the infirmities of age and we begin to lose control both of body and mind, others will make our decisions for us. We certainly will not like some of them, but we can not have our own way as we did when we were independent earlier in life. The more we become dependent upon them, the more they will decide our affairs. No one likes to lose control. When a man loses the use of his car, and he no longer has his own wheels, he becomes very depressed and sad. It seems to symbolize the loss of other things important in his life. It is like taking away his very life.
III. THE TEST OF OBEDIENCE
19. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
At first Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs, and then to feed his sheep. To be completely obedient to Jesus, Peter must now just "follow" Him. This could mean almost anything. We also must sign the blank page of commitment to the LORD. We can not say what we will do, just that we will do whatever he says, and go wherever he leads. Following Jesus could lead us through the valley of death. It could lead us to fields of service requiring great sacrifice. His path led to Calvary! Death to self is certainly required. It involves a cross!