Friday, August 31, 2012

…More than these?

“So 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, "Tend My lambs."” John 21:15

Have you ever puzzled over what to do?  Which decision to make?  Have you ever felt like God wanted you to do something, but you failed in it – or felt that your past somehow disqualified you?  Not knowing what to do next, have you ever reverted back to what you’ve always done before? 

Do you remember the story of Peter’s denial of Jesus?  Peter was “the Rock.” He was the one who would die for Jesus.  But when it came down to it, he became very afraid and panicked. After his denial, and after the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter sort of faded into the background.  He went back to fishing.  Then came the day that the resurrected Jesus paid Simon a call, and during that visit, Jesus asked him “Simon…do you love Me more than these?”  What a curious question!

But what are “these?”
The real crux of the account in John 21:15-19 is the recent denial of Jesus by Peter, and what is Peter going to do now?  Jesus has risen from the dead and has now made another appearance to the disciples.  The text in verse 15 tells us that Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him more than “these,” but casual examination of the text really isn’t clear about what “these” are.  Without going into the original language study details, suffice it to say that Jesus is not asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than he loves the other disciples.  Nor is he asking Peter if he loves Jesus more than the other disciples love Jesus.  

Peter is a fisherman.  After Jesus was crucified, life essentially went back to ‘normal’ for Peter.  Jesus is gone.  Peter goes back to the water.  It’s what he does.  So, apparently it is what he will do.  He’s been fishing all morning…and without catching anything, until Jesus comes along that is.  After telling the disciples to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, an enormous catch being reeled in, and everyone recognizing that it is Jesus, Jesus now has Peter sitting still and he asks him a hard question. “Do you love me more than these?”  “These” would be Peter’s nets, and his boat…His identity and career as a fisherman.  Jesus is confronting Peter with the question of essentially: “Okay Peter, you blew it.  You denied me three times and you are ashamed.  What now?  Do you love me?”  To which Peter replies: “You know I love you!” “Peter, do you love me more than these…this life you have as a fisherman? Do you love me enough to continue what I was doing on this earth?”  This whole context becomes apparent when Jesus says three times for Peter to 1. tend His lambs, 2. Shepherd His sheep, and 3. to tend His sheep.

What do I love?
As Christians, we agree that the Lord has called us to the labors of his Kingdom.  But sometimes we fail, and feel that somehow disqualifies us from the Lord’s care and service.  But I want us to hear the voice of the Lord to Peter as he called him back into service…saying effectively “Just let it go.  You love me more than all of this.  I know you do.  So, feed my sheep.”

Lord Jesus, sin so easily distracts me and tangles me in regret, remorse, and defeat.  Remind me of your mercy.  Restore to me the vision of what you would have me to do, and grant me the grace to be like Peter…to let go of my nets and boat…and serve you.  Amen.

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