“Do you love Me?” This is the question Jesus asked Peter at the shore of Galilee. Seven disciples had gone fishing. It was Peter’s idea. Jesus had appeared to them a couple of times since His resurrection. They were feeling rather adrift after having been with Him constantly for years. The account is recorded in the Gospel of John Chapter 21.
They worked at it all night and caught nothing. They didn’t know it, but Jesus was there on the shore that morning calling out to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you? … Cast your net on the right side of the boat and you will find a catch.” They go on to cast the net and bring in so many fish they can barely haul it in.
John immediately says, “It is the Lord” and Peter jumps into the lake to go to Him. There he finds Jesus beside a charcoal fire with fish and bread. He invites all of them to bring some of the fish and have breakfast. He serves them. They are pretty stunned and quiet, not having the nerve to ask Him anything.
After breakfast, Jesus begins questioning Peter. Even after the remorse of denying His Lord, our blustery fisherman still has a lot of self-interest ruling him.
Jesus asks if Peter sacrificially loves (agapao) Him. Peter replies that, of course, he loves (phileo) Jesus as a friend. Jesus asks him to tend His lambs. Jesus asks again if Peter loves (agapao) Him and Peter replies that he indeed does love (phileo) Him. Jesus asks him to tend his sheep. Finally, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, using phileo instead of agapao with Peter’s reply that he does phileo the Lord as a friend. Jesus ends by asking Peter to “tend My sheep.”
Jesus has a lovely way of meeting us where we are, doesn’t He? He ends up coming to the level of Peter with “friend (phileo) love” the third time. Yes, He prophetically had pronounced the sacrificial love Peter would live out in his love of his savior, but for now, He would be the friend Peter needed.
Jesus goes on to tell Peter how things will be in his old age and the type of death he would die to glorify Him. He finishes by telling Peter, “Follow Me.”
What does Peter do but look around at John saying “What about him?” When we are confronted with an issue in our lives, isn’t it often our response to deflect attention to someone else? Let’s get the attention off of me and look at the beloved disciple. What about him, Jesus?
Jesus quickly says, “…what is that to you? You follow Me!”
Oh, how we need to keep our eyes on Jesus and not on those around us. Each of us has a divine purpose given to us by God. We need not compare ourselves to others, but look to Him alone as we obey Him each step of the way. Our reward comes by fulfilling our purpose on this earth.
Do you love Him sacrificially? Are you willing to lay your life down for Him? Or is Jesus just that source that is there when you need something? Jesus wants us to be fruitful and build His kingdom. It is not all about us.
So, what is the key to getting our eyes off of ourselves as Peter was so prone to do?
The Holy Spirit!
Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples after His resurrection, which is not unlike what happens to us when we receive Jesus as our Savior. But the power came on the Day of Pentecost when the 120 disciples were gathered together in unity, waiting because Jesus had commanded them.
“And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
And began to speak with other tongues,
As the Spirit gave them utterance.” Acts 2:4
Peter rose a changed man and preached a powerful sermon that brought about 3,000 souls into the kingdom that day. He went on to be a great leader in the early church accompanied by miracles as he obeyed God each step of the way.
May we rise up in the power of the Holy Spirit as we go about our daily routines, looking for opportunities to spread the love of Jesus. He will whisper in our ears. We need only obey to show our agapao love for Him.