"Do you love me?"
It's not exactly the question we expect God to ask, and yet John records it as one of the significant conversations the resurrected Jesus had with one of the disciples, Peter.
15 After breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," Peter replied, "you know I love you." "Then feed my lambs," Jesus told him. 16 Jesus repeated the question: "Simon son of John, do you love me?" "Yes, Lord," Peter said, "you know I love you." "Then take care of my sheep," Jesus said. 17 Once more he asked him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved that Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, "Lord, you know everything. You know I love you." Jesus said, "Then feed my sheep."
That he asks it more than once focuses even more attention to it.
Why would he care about being loved? He is Almighty God enthroned in the presence of thousands of adoring angels. He can command obedience simply because He is the greatest power in the universe. Why would He be seeking Peter's love?
We seem to be far more comfortable when our deities command fear. Almost every idol or false god man has ever created seeks the submission of his or her subjects by sheer terror. But love? What false god ever wanted to be loved? Feared? Yes. Obeyed? Yes. But never loved.
After His work on the Cross was finished, however, Jesus comes looking for love, and He seeks it from the one who had just failed Him most. Could this be what He most wanted the Cross to produce in His followers? Was His death designed to reach past their fears of God and begin a new relationship based on the intimacy of love instead? What else could it be?
Throughout the Old Testament, God often identified Himself as the God of love and mercy, but few understood Him that way. They seemed only able to obey Him under threat of judgment. Even commanding them to love Him with all their hearts seemed to negate the end by the means employed. Can true love really be commanded?
What Jesus seeks from Peter reflects what the Father had ALWAYS wanted from His people, but what they have rarely understood. He desires the warmth and tenderness of a relationship filled with love. None of this was lost on Peter, even though his answer didn't come easily. If the power of the cross can reach past that failure, then something new had really happened. Jesus was inviting Peter past his failure to experience the depths of God's love - to tap into the most powerful force in the universe.
Love lies at the very core of God's nature. In fact, when John sums up the substance of God, he does so in a very simple statement: "God is love." We may not be able to explain in concrete terms all that God is and how the Father, Son, and Spirit relate together in such unity, be we do know that they exist in a perfect state of love.
When that love touches you, you will discover there is nothing more powerful in the entire universe. It is more powerful than your failures, your sins, your disappointments, your dreams, and even your fears. God knows that when you tap the depths of His love, your life will forever be changed. Nothing can prevail over it; and nothing else will lead you to taste of His kind of holiness.
From He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobsen
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