Our reading for Monday, May 13, 2019 is John 21:15–17
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” — NIV
I guess I would ask the same question to you and me that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you truly love me?” The question would not be difficult to answer if Jesus had not included the word “truly” to his question. I believe most of those who receive my daily word would respond “Yes!” we love Jesus. However, “truly” implies a deeper understanding of the concept of love for Jesus.
Jesus asked Peter this question three times. An easier way to understand the complexity of what Jesus was asking Peter is to consider the first of the three times Peter is questioned. The first time Jesus added the caveat of “more than these.” Since Peter was with the other eleven remaining disciples when Jesus questioned him the comparison He asked was with his brothers. Another way of stating the question would be “Do you love me more than your brothers whom like you I called and who followed me throughout my ministry?”
It is typical that we evaluate our worth and standing by comparison to others. Peter’s struggle was over his obvious denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest after Jesus’ arrest. We know Peter denied being with him and even knowing Jesus in order to spare his own life. Even though the others denied Jesus and betrayed him as well through their scattering after his arrest, Peter at least had the courage to follow after Jesus to see what was going to happen to him. We know he bore no more shame than should the rest of the disciples but it was Peter who made a bold declaration of loyalty and willingness to die with his master.
I guess we should be careful about what promises and commitments we make for the greater the profession the more damning the guilt and shame when we fail to fulfill what we promise. When Peter compared himself with his brothers he bore a greater shame within himself. This did not mean that his colleagues belittled him for his cowardice; his was the burden of self-condemnation. Have you shared with Peter his despair? I have in much lesser circumstance failed to live up to my proclamation and considered myself a greater spiritual failure in comparison to others who follow Jesus.
How do we really know how Jesus thinks of us? Peter finally admitted his lack of personal assurance of faith by placing the burden on Jesus saying only he knew and only Jesus could provide the assurance he sought. No other person can provide this assurance for us except Jesus but then we do not have Jesus’ resurrected presence to comfort us. How dare we presume such confidence!
We do have the Holy Spirit to confirm our acceptance by Jesus, and we have the fruit of the Spirit’s working in us to verify the inner voice of peace. Twice Jesus pointed to the source of Peter’s and our assurance of salvation. Jesus first responded by requesting Peter to feed his lambs and a second time to care for Jesus’ sheep.
We can wallow in the despair of our moral failures and spiritual inadequacy which will only keep us defeated or we can invest ourselves in bearing fruit by loving others for Jesus. When we direct our energies in the positive direction of righteousness we will discover the evidence of the fruit we bear with and through his direction and aid. It is this evidence of fruit that when combined with the inner moving of the Holy Spirit that we will discover an assurance of our worth and acceptance by God. May you discover you blessed assurance of faith.