This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.
Do you love Jesus Christ? That’s the question we all sought to answer last night in our study of John 21:15-19. When asked by a scholar what the most important commandment in all the law was, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” There is no more important consideration for the Christian than our love for our God and for our Savior. If then, the question is of supreme importance, shouldn’t we devote some mental energy to answering it honestly? In our text from last night, Jesus posed the question to Peter, and pressed him in his response to consider all that a commitment to Christ entails. We sought to look at Jesus’ words to Peter and apply them to ourselves, with the goal of evaluating how our love for Christ is and in what areas we need to increase our affection for our Savior.
Jesus begins by asking Peter the very pointed question, “Do you love me more than these?” Pointed, because Peter had made exactly that claim prior to his denial of Christ. In Mark 14:26-31, Peter responds to Jesus’ proclamation that all the disciples would desert him by saying that even if everybody else turned and ran, he never would. He proclaimed a superior love for Christ, only to have that notion shattered by failing to even verbally identify with Christ during his greatest need. The pride is gone now, and Peter simply answers, “You know I love you.” In his response we see the first step in a love for Christ – saying it. Confessing our faith is the starting point, but even it can be difficult, as Peter learned - and as perhaps you’ve learned in you spiritual journey. In a world that is fallen, sometimes merely identifying with Jesus can lead to ridicule or worse. Yet Jesus pushes Peter past this starting point with his reply – “feed my lambs.” In essence, Jesus is calling Peter to the more difficult step in our love for Christ – living it. Jesus tells Peter that if he really loves him, he will care for his people, teaching them the way that Jesus had taught him. If our faith is real, as James tells us, it must become action, it must do something. There are many ways that our actions can proclaim our love for Christ. My students last night came up with several: caring for the outcast and the ignored, living a life where proclaiming your faith is a natural occurrence, being a person of your word whom others can depend on, being a person of integrity when you think nobody’s watching but God, and demonstrating by the use of your time what’s really important to you. In all of these areas, we put flesh and blood on our faith, demonstrate its reality and vitality, and demonstrate a true love for Christ in much the same way that our actions toward our spouse or significant other reflects our love for them. It’s interesting to note also that Jesus repeats his question and answer three times, mentally taking Peter back to his moment of greatest failure. Our actions aren’t earning our favor with God. We will all fail, just as Peter did. Yet, God’s grace picks us up and pushes us forward.
Many of us are content to stop here, if we get this far at all. Yet Jesus calls Peter further in verses 18 and 19. He foretells the violent death that Peter will endure as a result following him. He then ends with the simple admonition, “Follow me.” He is showing Peter – and us - that in answering the question of our love for him, it’s not enough to say it and live it, but we must be willing to die for it. Jesus gave some tough words to would-be followers throughout his ministry – telling people to forget their recently deceased loved ones, hate their families, and be ready to suffer and die. Our commitment to Christ should be such that we see him as far surpassing all things – even life itself. He must be our treasure in the field, for which everything else is expendable. He loved us unto death, and he calls us to the same love. Take some time today and ponder the question, “Do I love Christ?” Are you content to profess faith without doing anything about it? Or perhaps you’re living a life of faith, but still clinging to other loves above your Savior? No matter where you are, no matter how strong your love, the call of John 21:15-19 is the same. Move forward. Find a deeper love. Or, as Jesus simply put it, “Follow me.”
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