Sermon Given at Woolson Church – March 11, 2012
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.” – John 21:15-19
Do you love me? These were the stinging words that Jesus used to restore Peter. These simple, yet powerful words were used by Christ to pierce the heart of Peter (Hebrews 4:12) and to bring Peter back into a right relationship with his Master. These are the words that launched Peter into a radical life for Christ.
Today, we are going to look at these four words: Do you love me? We are going to unpackaged these versus. We are going to go to the banks of the Sea of Tiberius and sit around the fire and feel its warmth. We are going to look upon Jesus as Peter looked upon Jesus and experience the anguish Peter felt after denying Christ and the joy Peter felt after being restored by Christ.
My prayer and hope for this message is that all of you will hear the words “Do you love me” straight from the mouth of Christ and that they would penetrate your heart. That these words would be alive in you. And that they would ring in your ears and grieve you until you answer yes, you know that I love you. And that this love would be the catalyst to a sold out life to Christ.
Now, let us first start by taking a look at context. First of all let us look at the timing of this conversation. This conversation took place after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but before the anointing of the Holy Spirit. This was an in between time for the followers of Christ. In a way, it was a spiritual no man’s land. You can get a sense of this by what the disciples were doing. In verse 3, we see Peter say, “I am going fishing”. It appears that the disciples were slipping back into the common, into what was familiar. Into the rut of life. At this time they had been given the Great Commission to go to the ends of the Earth, but instead they went fishing.
Secondly, I think we need to understand the two parties involved in this conversation. Jesus and Peter. These two had an interesting relationship. If you recall Peter’s name originally was Simon, son of John. And it was Jesus who changed his name to Peter. He was also one of the few, if not only, person in existence that Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan.” It was a tumultuous relationship. Not because of Christ, but because of Peter. He was all over the board. Peter wreaked of his flesh.
Now this conversation between Peter and Jesus was a crucial conversation. Have you ever heard that phrase before, crucial conversation? It was a name of a book written several years ago and it sold over 2 million copies. It was a book about having conversations that are life changing. Conversations that lead to a turning point in your life. I am sure you have experienced one or two of these in your life. Perhaps had one between you and your father, or mother, a teacher, or a pastor. For Peter this was definitely a life changing conversation. This was one of the last conversation that launched Peter forward into a radical following of Jesus Christ. After this he was preaching Christ to the same Jews that killed Christ, raising people from the dead, walking out of prisons. Eventually it led to Peter’s murder. And I believe that this conversation was fundamental to this surrendered life. So let us unpackaged this conversation.
First, what I find so interesting is that this conversation was merely a simple question. There was not a lot of moving parts. It was about one topic. “Do you love me?” That was it. Nothing more, nothing less. Do you love me? It was simple examination of Peter. A pop quiz of sorts. He wasn’t preaching, he was posing. Now, it is important to realize that this question, was not for Jesus. The reason for asking this question was not so Jesus would know the answer. This question was for Peter. It was for him to reflect upon. I wonder how often Peter did this? I wonder how often he sat down and reflected about his walk with Christ. Remember, Peter was the guy who would shot first and aimed second. He was a man of action. In fact, his clothes were probably still damp from jumping into the sea to swim to shore. Jesus was forcing Peter to come to a time of examination. A simple examination, but still a powerful one.
Now the next thing I want us to think about is that Jesus was requesting him to examine the relationship between him and Peter. He said Simon do YOU love ME. Recently I read a book called Not a Fan, and in this book the author was talking about the common conversation that couples have. He called it the Define the Relationship conversation, or DTR. This is when the guy and the girl sit down and try to figure out where there this is going. If they are on the same page. I am sure that all of you have been a part of a DTR before. It probably came up on your fourth of fifth date. You and your date were sitting down to eat, she was still eating salad and you were chomping down on a steak, and then the female asks out of the blue, “Where do you see this going?” The guy is totally confused. Then the question hits him like a ton of bricks. “Oh, you mean this? Where do you see this going?” What they girl is curious is about is where does she stand with him. How does the other person feel about her. This is exactly what Jesus was asking of Peter. Peter, how to you feel about me? Peter, do we have a future? Peter, are you committed to this relationship? Peter, define what I mean to you.
Next, we need to understand that this relationship that Jesus wanted Peter to reflect on was a relationship of love. Love. Jesus was point blank asking, do you love me. He wasn’t pulling punches or dancing around the bush. He was direct, and was getting, literally, to the heart of the matter.
Love is one of the most misunderstood words in the world. If I were to ask, what does love mean. I am guessing that all of you would have an answer. And I am guessing that all of your answers would be somewhat different. But in this passage, it is Christ who is posing this question, so we need to know what does Christ mean by love? How are we going to find out what Christ meant by love? How about His Word? What does Christ say that love is?
Turn to John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
When Jesus used the word love, he used it in a way that means this kind of love. He used the word love as He knows the word love. How did Christ love? He loved by dieing. He left the Glory that he had with his father and walked amongst the stench of humanity. The Light of the world came down into darkness and the darkness hated the light. He then laid down his life and died for us while we were still sinners. That is love. That is what Christ is talking about. That is what Jesus means when he asks Peter do you love me? Do you treasure me more than life itself. He is asking Peter, will you die for me?
This words pieced the heart of Peter. In verse 17 it says Peter was grieved. He had sorrow in his heart. The words of Christ hit him like a ton of bricks, crashing down upon his soul. At this moment he was broken and contrite. He was on his knees before the cross. He was on his knees before the King. This is the place Jesus wanted Peter to be. He wanted Peter with tears in his eyes, pain in his heart, sold out for Jesus Christ. If Peter was going to be used by Jesus, he had to love him. He had to love him. Bottom line, no exception. And this love can’t be a lukewarm love. It is a soulful, complete, authentic, reeking of truth and obedience kind of love. His love was crucial.
This is where Jesus wanted Peter, and this is where Jesus wants you. Phil, son of Tim, do you love me? John, son of Bob, do you love me. Mary, daughter of Richard, do you love me?
Have you allowed Jesus to sit on the shores of your life and pear into your heart and ask the simple question “Do you love me?” Have those words broken you down, stripped you of everything else. Have you examined your life and asked if you love a net full of fish, or do you love Jesus Christ. Do you love your job, or do you love Jesus. Do you love your health, or do you love Jesus. Do you love your life, or do you love Jesus.
Psalm 42:1 says, “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” Honestly, is that you? Can you say in your heart, to live is Christ and to die is gain? Do you treasure Christ above all things?
We have a choice to make, do you love Christ, or do you love something else. You cannot serve mammon and God. You cannot be lukewarm. You cannot be a dead branch attached to the Vine. Either you are a tree that bears fruit, or you don’t.
It is time for the Church to wake up and be willing to die for its King. It is willing for Woolson to say I love you Lord, take me where I don’t want to go. Take me to N. Korea, to India, to China, to Ottumwa, to Pekin, to my family, to my friends. Help me to love you more than life itself.