Question – “What does Jesus know about you and about everyone else in the world?” He knows our fears and failures, our dreams and desires. He knows what is in our hearts and on our minds. Like Peter said, Jesus knows everything. He also knows how much we love Him – and whether He is first in our lives.
Peter had greatly failed the Lord in the courtyard near where Jesus was being tried when he denied any relationship with Him. He was overjoyed when he heard of Jesus’ resurrection, but at the same time the shame and sadness associated with his betrayal must have overwhelmed him. That’s probably why Peter was out fishing rather than seeking to spend time with the resurrected Lord. When Jesus shows up, however, Peter can’t resist rushing to Him. Then, following a meal, our Lord asks Peter some very pointed questions. The questions that Jesus asked are applicable to our relationship with Him today.
Jesus immediately cuts to the heart of what really matters. The fact that Peter has failed and fallen is not the real issue. What really matters to the Lord is the level of Peter’s love for Him, so three times Jesus asks Peter about his love for Him. In the first question He asks, “Do you love Me more than these?” When He asked that question, He perhaps was asking, “Do you love Me more than these ‘things’?” Perhaps He was alluding to the boats, the nets and the fishing equipment? If so, then Jesus was asking Peter if he loved Him more than his career, his possessions, and everything he had. Many people who have professed their love for the Lord have actually loved their careers, possessions and money more than they loved the Lord. We know whom and what we love by the amount of time we spend focusing on them, thinking about them, or giving our time to them – and it’s very obvious that many professing Christians love what they do or what they have more than they love the Lord.
Or, when Jesus asked, “Do you love Me more than these,” perhaps He was asking, “Do you love Me more than these ‘people’?” Perhaps He was referring to Peter’s close friends who were with him. Many people who have professed their love for the Lord have actually loved their children, spouses, parents or friends more than they’ve loved the Lord (Matthew 10:37). Again, we know whom we really love by the amount of time we spend focusing on them, thinking about them, or giving our time to them.
Second Question – “If Jesus asked you whether you loved others, your career, your possessions, your money, or your ambitions more than you love Him, what would be your answer – and what would be the evidence supporting your answer?” Whom or what do you sometimes love more than you love the Lord?
Whichever meaning was intended by the Lord, it is obvious that Jesus was challenging Peter to put first things first, and reinstate Him as number one in his life. The Lord gives us the same challenge today.
Another important play on words in this passage centers on Jesus’ use of two Greek terms for the word “love.” In the first two questions, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him with an “agape” supernatural and sacrificial kind of love. Each time Peter responds by saying that he loves the Lord with a “phileo” affectionate and friendship type of love. Having heard Peter’s first two responses, Jesus asked him, “Are you sure that you even love Me (with a “phileo” friendship type of love)?” That must have hurt, because Peter knew that his love for the Lord was not what it ought to be. Jesus was apparently satisfied with Peter’s response to the third question, because He said, “Feed My sheep, and follow Me.”
As you pray today: 1) Ask the Lord to reveal to you where He is in the “love priorities” of your life; 2) Acknowledge that He deserves to be number one in your life, and ask Him to help you make and keep Him first in your life; and 3) Surrender anyone and anything that you love more than the Lord to Him. The Lord Jesus deserves and desires to always be first and foremost in our lives!