Summary: Peter had denied Jesus three times. Jesus asks Peter is he truly loved him. Jesus may need to ask us the same thing. Peter didn't love Jesus as much as he thought he did. Do we love Jesus as much as we think we do?


John 21:15-23

1) “Do you love me?” (15-17). The charcoal fire connection in 21:9. It is interesting that the Greek word for charcoal fire is found in only two places in the New Testament. Here in this story where Jesus is cooking fish for the disciple’s breakfast, and the other is when Peter stood warming himself after the arrest of Jesus in the courtyard. It was there that Peter denied the Lord and saw Jesus look at him as the rooster crowed. As Peter smelled the charcoal fire on the shore this day, it no doubt took him back to that shame filled moment in the courtyard. Vs. 15. “Do you love me more than these?” What did Jesus mean by more than these? These things (fishing equipment and therefore [‘do you love me more than your livelihood’?]). Do we love Jesus more than we love our job? Are we more devoted to our Lord or our work/boss? Do we love Jesus more than our possessions? To which are we more devoted? Do we love Jesus more than we love money? Which do we pursue more? Jesus could’ve also meant, ‘Do you love me more than you love these other men’? And therefore [‘do you love me more than you do anyone else in your life’?] Is Jesus first; is he the priority in our life? Or do we put the desires of others before the desires of Jesus? Do we compromise the will of Christ for the sake of pleasing someone else? A third option for what it means is, ‘Do you love me more than these other men do’? Peter had claimed devotion above the other disciples. When Jesus was with his disciples at the Last Supper, he told them that they would all fall away, which they did when he was arrested; they all scattered and ran away. But Peter confidently declared in Matt. 26:33, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” Peter thought he had an uncompromising love for Jesus. So much so that he didn’t even believe Jesus himself when he told him he would later disown him. But unfortunately, Peter would be the one to deny knowing Jesus. Peter had failed, but the good news was that Jesus wasn’t done with him. Jesus loved Peter so much that even though he denied knowing him, he was willing to forgive Peter and welcome him back. Jesus not only forgave and reinstated Peter he gave him the huge responsibility of taking care of Jesus’ precious lambs and sheep. Jesus was basically telling Peter, “Let’s move on; the past is the past-learn from it and let go of it.” We have a problem of reliving our past mistakes and it causes us to not be able to move forward. Jesus wants us to know that when we mess-up miserably we can turn back and start anew. That’s the love that Jesus has for us. Our English translation in the three questions is inferior to the Greek rendering. Jesus uses the verb agape, which signifies to love wholeheartedly; and Peter replies using the verb fileo, which signifies to have regard for, to feel friendship for another. It’s as if Jesus is asking, “Do you truly love me; do you have supreme, uncompromising love for me Peter?” And Peter can only reply with, “Lord, I have affection for you, brotherly love for you but after what I’ve done I dare not say I have the highest form of love for you.” It makes sense since he doesn’t repeat the more than these in his reply. Peter simply says, ‘you know that I love you’ and not, ‘you know that I love you more than they do’. We might have the problem of thinking we love Jesus more than other people do. Jesus may need to humble us like he did Peter. Jesus wanted Peter to understand the truest essence of love. The kind of love that could only have been shown by God. Jesus had shown Peter agape love. He wanted Peter to understand that he didn’t possess the same level of love. We know what supreme love loves like because of Jesus’s example of sacrificial love. We will be challenged as to what level our love for him is. Do you truly love Jesus?

2) “Then do my will”. “Feed my lambs/take care of my sheep/feed my sheep”. Jesus was calling Peter to take care of the church. He was to feed them the word and watch over and protect them. Ministers today have the same challenge and responsibility. If we say we love Jesus then we are to show it by being faithful in feeding and caring for the flock. But what if you’re not a minister? What does this mean for you? The message is basically the same. Do you love Jesus? Then show it by obedience. Show it by doing his will. Show it by your willingness to fulfill his purpose for your life. Jesus asked Peter three times if he truly loved him. Peter had denied Christ three times and Jesus was challenging Peter’s love for him. When Peter answered yes, I love you, Jesus responded with, ‘then do this’. He says the same to us. Derrick, do you love me?’ ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you’. ‘Then do this-then obey me’. Jesus said in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one that loves me.” It’s like Jesus is saying, “The evidence of your love for me will be seen in your obedience to what I tell you to do. If you love me then show it.” Peter did that very thing. Soon after this encounter Peter possessed agape love for Jesus. Peter didn’t just say he loved Jesus, he showed it. He boldly proclaimed the gospel at Pentecost. He was a strong leader of the newly established Christian church in Jerusalem. He was willing to suffer persecution for the cause of Christ. So it is with us. We can say we love Jesus all we want but since love is an action word we have to determine if we are showing that love for Jesus which we claim. You know, I love my wife, Beth. I don’t talk to her very much, but I love her. She tries to talk to me but I don’t let her; I just want her to listen to me. When I do talk to her it’s usually only when I want something from her. Sometimes she wants things from me but I don’t bother with that. I really never think about her during the week, except for Sunday mornings, but I love her. She’s not a big part of my life. She tries to be but I don’t want her to be. She tries to get close to me but I don’t want her getting too close to me, but I do love her. I don’t tell other people I love her. In fact, I don’t even tell anyone else I’m married. I’ll even take off my wedding ring when I go out in public ‘cause I really don’t want anyone to see it-they might say something about it or ask me questions. Sometimes I don’t act like I’m married. But make no mistake about it-I love my wife. What, you don’t believe me? Does this describe your relationship with Jesus? It’s not easy to examine ourselves. It’s difficult to think we don’t love Jesus as much as we think we do. As C.S. Lewis once said, “Christ’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.” Peter had a humbling experience. He knew he loved Jesus but he knew he didn’t love him as much as he once thought he did. If we examined our actions would they line up with our claims?

3) “All the way to the end.” (18-19) Here Peter is shown the extent of his love for Jesus-he would become a martyr. I think Jesus was showing Peter that he did indeed love him but that love would take him to great depths of persecution like it had for Jesus himself. The language of having the hands stretched out and someone else dressing you (or girding you) can mean to tie his hands to the cross, as was sometimes the means by which crucifixion was done instead of using nails. But Peter would do this willingly. Yes, he would be led to where he didn’t want to go, but he would go willingly for it was in service to his master. Peter did not purposely enter into martyrdom but when it was presented as his fate he didn’t resist it. Early church tradition and various ancient writers (Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius) state that around 64 A.D., during the reign of Nero, Peter was crucified upside-down. He was to be crucified in the traditional way but said to them, “I am not worthy to be crucified in the same manner as my Lord”. Although I’m sure Peter wasn’t thrilled to hear Jesus tell him he would eventually die for his faith, this could’ve been motivating for him. Peter now knew that he would have that agape love for Jesus. He learned that he would love his Lord so much that he would truly be willing to die for him instead of just thinking that he would have as before when he said it but ended up denying him. So we see that although we might not welcome persecution, our willingness to endure it is an indicator of our love for Jesus. Persecution isn’t a bad thing. It shows that we are putting our love for Jesus out there for others to see. It shows we’re not ashamed to let our faith be visible. In Acts 5 we read about the Apostles being arrested for preaching and healing. An angel opened the doors of the prison and told them to go and preach the gospel. When they did they were hauled in front of the Sanhedrin. The High Priest said, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name.” Peter and the other Apostles responded by saying, “We must obey God rather than men.” What did that get them? Flogged. After they were beaten they were told again to stop speaking in the name of Jesus and they were released. How did Peter and the other Apostles respond? It says in Acts 5:41 that they left rejoicing that they were counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” Peter and the others loved Jesus so much that they embraced God’s will for them and saw it as an honor to suffer if it brought glory to the name of Jesus. Here we see the dramatic change of Peter. Where before he went so far as to deny even knowing Jesus to save himself from persecution, now he boldly proclaims his allegiance to Jesus despite the consequences. Persecution can be as minor as dealing with a dirty look because you’re wearing a Christian t-shirt. If you’ve dealt with someone giving you a hard time because you talked to them about your faith, then you’ve dealt with persecution. But no matter how it comes, if we are going to love Jesus and live for Jesus, we will not escape it. 2nd Tim. 3:12, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” We might not be called to suffer like Peter but we will be dealing with persecution.

4) “What about him?” (20-23) Vs. 20-21-Peter had just received some sobering news about his violent fate and in seeing John pass by wondered if he was going to have to suffer likewise. It’s so easy for us to think that we’re being unfairly treated; even by God. We have expectations. We magnify our sufferings and minimize other’s. Therefore, we always have it worse off than the other guy. By the grace of God whenever I get on my pity pot and start whining and complaining that life isn’t fair God will always show me someone who has it worse off than me and it puts things immediately into perspective and my grumbling turns to gratitude. Part of loving Jesus like we should involves removing the bitter seed of grumbling and complaining and replacing it with the attitude of gratitude. Isn’t it just like us to be more concerned with what’s going on in someone else’s life than focusing on our own? If we spent as much time examining ourselves as we do others then we would be a lot further along. Vs. 22-Jesus is basically saying, ‘that’s none of your business’. What I do with him, give to him, how I work through him should not change your love for me.’ Jesus uses a grandiose statement to illustrate his point. It would be like Jesus telling me that I will be in poverty until I die and I ask, ‘what about him’ and Jesus responds with, “If I want him to be a billionaire what’s that to you? Follow me”. We have a problem comparing ourselves to others. If I have medical issues and I see another who seems to have no ailments I can become bitter and angry with God over it. If I’m not as smart or as talented or as well off as the next guy I can assume God loves him more. I’ll think I’m being short-changed and then I’ll get to the point where I say, “Why am I following God if this is how my life is going to be?” And this is the danger of it all. It pulls me away from God. Thank God it didn’t happen to Peter but it could have. Peter could’ve formed resentments towards John or even Jesus. If that had happened he would’ve been ineffective and unproductive for the spread of the gospel. When we allow resentments to get in the way we will be useless for the kingdom’s work. We will allow ourselves to turn from God in anger and refuse to serve him. If we are born again then we’ve said we love him and therefore we have committed to following him wherever he leads us regardless of what happens. Our love for Jesus cannot be contingent on how he operates in the lives of others. Will we love Jesus even if he blesses someone else more than me? Will I continue to love and serve Jesus even if everyone else wasn’t? That’s another comparison problem we have-we look at what we’re doing compared to what others aren’t doing. We say, “Why am I serving if they’re not going to?” “Why am I sacrificing so much?” I would have to ask, “What is my motive in serving?” Am I doing this for Jesus or for some other reason? Is my devotion contingent on whether or not others are doing their part? If love isn’t our motivator we will eventually stop what we’re doing. Our love for Jesus shouldn’t change based on how our lives are going. Our love needs to be based on our gratitude for his love for us and what he’s already done for us; not on what he will do for us. Eph. 5:1-2, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” If we love God then we will be focused on imitating God and living a life of love. They will know we are Christians by our love. “A bell’s not a bell until you ring it. A song’s not a song until you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love ‘til you give it away.” “Do you love Jesus?”