Monday, April 6, 2015, 7:45 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Now Abiding.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read John 21:15-23 (ESV).
Jesus Christ, God the Son, was crucified, buried and was resurrected back to life. After he was raised from the dead, he appeared to many people. He appeared to his disciples on more than one occasion. This was one of those times: Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples had gone fishing. They caught no fish that night. Jesus appeared on the shore, though they did not recognize him. When they told him they had not caught anything, he told them to cast their net on the right side of the boat and there they would find some. So they did as he said, and they caught so many fish that they were not able to haul them all in. Then John realized that it was Jesus who had told them to do that, and who had provided the fish, so he exclaimed to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Then the disciples came ashore. Jesus had prepared breakfast for them – fish and bread. “This was the third time Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (v. 14)
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” ~ vv. 15-19
What is Love?
In the English language we use the word “love” to mean so many different things. We love God. We love our spouses and our children. We love our friends and neighbors. We love ice cream and chocolate. We love vacations and beaches (or mountains). And, we love art and music. Yet, these uses of the word “love” do not all have the same meaning, nor should they. We should not love our spouses in the same way we love animals, food, possessions or activities, for instance. The word “love” therefore has taken on such a general meaning so as to include just about anything we “like” or that we take pleasure in, and which gives us enjoyment, and thus the kind of love God desires us to have gets lost in the shuffle.
As well, our culture influences the way in which we view the word “love.” “Love” is often confused with “lust,” for instance. “Love” is also confused with “like” or “appreciate.” Yet, in the Greek language they had three different words, which in the English language are all translated as the word “love.” One is “agape,” which is God-like love, which is based in God, for he is love, and has to do with “embracing God’s will, choosing his choices, and obeying them actively through His power; taking pleasure in and longing for God/Christ; preferring to have Christ live his life through us” (See http://biblehub.com/greek/25.htm); and loving him and others in the same (or similar) way in which he loves us. Another one is “phileo,” which has to do with “showing warm affection in intimate friendship, characterized by tender, heartfelt consideration and kinship” (same link as above). A third one is “eros,” which is romantic and/or sexual love. And, there may be others I don’t know about.
As well, in our culture “love” is often defined in such a way as to make us believe that it is unkind and unloving to tell people the truth about sin, and that it is loving and kind to lie to them, i.e. to tell them what they want to hear. And, it teaches us to love the things of this world with the kind of love which should only be reserved for God, yet, as believers in Jesus Christ, we should not submit ourselves to the will (choices, values) of this sinful world.
More Than These?
When Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, he asked him if he God-like loved him, to which Peter responded that he had affection (friendship) for him. Again Jesus asked him if he God-like loved him to which Peter responded that he had affection for Jesus. The third time Jesus asked Peter if he had affection for him, to which Peter said that the Lord knows he has affection for him, yet Peter seemed to not see the differentiation between what Jesus asked the first two times and what he asked the third time. And, I believe that is where many of Christ’s followers are today, too. They see love for God as some warm affection they have for God, yet they don’t see that the kind of love God wants us to have for him embraces God’s will, chooses his choices, and obeys them actively through His power.
Jesus also asked Peter if he loved him “more than these.” He didn’t say what “these” were, but perhaps Peter knew. He could have been referring to fishing, or to the other disciples, but whatever the “these” were, Jesus wanted him to love him more. And, again, the Lord has the same message for us. He wants to be our “all in all.” He desires first place in our hearts, and everything else in our lives should fall in line under his rule and authority. He wants his followers to leave everything to follow him, i.e. to let go of this world and its possessions and influences, and to follow Jesus Christ wherever he leads us. He doesn’t want to be in second place or to get our leftovers. We are to die to our old lives of living for sin and self (daily) and to follow (obey) him. So, if we love Jesus “more than these,” it means he rules, he reigns, and everything else in our lives is subject to him and to his will.
Feed My Sheep
Jesus’ response to Peter when Peter said he loved him, i.e. had affection for him, was to tell Peter to feed and to care for Jesus’ sheep. Although Peter did not respond that he had “agape” love for Jesus, still Jesus demanded it when he told Peter to feed his sheep. And, Jesus has the same message for us. If we love him, we are to love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we are to serve them, and to minister to their needs. Jesus’ sheep are his followers, i.e. they are those who have trusted in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of their lives, have died with Christ to their old lives of living for sin and self, have been transformed in heart and mind of the Spirit of God (are born anew), and now, in the power and working of the Spirit within them, are no longer walking according to the flesh, but they are walking according to the Spirit. Jesus said his sheep listen to him and they follow (obey) him.
So, how was Peter to feed and to care for Jesus’ sheep? He was to do it in much the same way in which Jesus did it, and in the power of the Spirit. He was to be a servant and a messenger who brought healing, hope and the message of salvation to the people. He was to make disciples of Christ of the sheep under his care, teaching them to obey all that Christ had commanded him (them). He was to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to weep with those who weep, though never to find joy or pleasure in what is sinful and unholy. He was to speak the truth in love, never compromise his faith or biblically-based convictions, and he was to nurture the body of Christ and to prepare them for works of service. He was to counsel, guide, direct, teach, encourage, rebuke, correct, urge and value them. He was to treat them with love and respect, and to honor them and the callings God had placed upon their lives. And, he was to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. In other words, he was to lead them by example, as a follower of Christ himself (See: 1 Peter 5:1-5).
What About Them?
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” ~ vv. 20-23
I believe the lesson here is that we are to follow Jesus and do what he says, without comparing ourselves to others and to what God is calling them to do, and without displaying jealousy over others’ gifts and/or callings. We are also to follow Jesus even if no one else follows Jesus. We are to obey his teachings even if others are abandoning the truths of God’s word all around us. We can’t let what others do or don’t do determine how we are going to live for God or not live for God. We have to do our part, even if others don’t do theirs. I love that old song of my generation, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus.” One line in the song says, “Though none go with me, still I will follow, no turning back, no turning back.” Amen!
Now Abiding / An Original Work / January 31, 2012
Walking with Him; have Him near me,
Brings me comfort, joy and healing.
Now abiding in His presence;
His words speaking, oh, how gently:
Speak conviction, inspiration,
And instruction in right living.
Hope and comfort Jesus brings you,
When you’re walking with Him daily.
Be His servant; share the gospel;
Be His witness of salvation.
Love your brothers and your sisters.
Share with them that Jesus loves them.
Talking daily with my Savior;
List’ning to Him while He teaches,
Draws me closer; get to know Him,
So that I can now obey Him.
Follow Him where’er He leads me.
Worship only Jesus, Savior.