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.” 16 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.” 17 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. 18 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.” 19 (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
I’m a bottom line guy. I ask my wife to summarize a newspaper article for me and she begins to give me details of the persons, places, events, times, dates, and other details. After about 4 details my eyes glaze over, and I tell her, “I just want the bottom line. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is this person someone whom I should trust? Is this event a cause for joy or lament? Give me the bottom line.
The three-time question of Peter, “Do you love me?” has a very important bottom line. Our love for Jesus should show itself in many ways. One way to think of it is to reflect on Jesus’ love for us. He shows his love for us in that he pursues us. He called Peter out. He called Peter to follow him. He called Peter out of the boat to walk on water. He shows up now to have this conversation with Peter because he wants to pursue this man who had forsaken him. He wants that event no longer to have a hold on Peter.
Jesus shows his love for us by being persistent in seeking us. He doesn’t stop asking Peter if he loves him after one inquiry. Three times he asks Peter. He persists in gaining entry into Peter’s heart.
Jesus is also willing to be in close proximity with Peter and his disciples. When Jesus breathed on the disciples in the upper room, he had to be in close proximity to them. Now when he eats with his disciples, and asks Peter about his love, he does so in that space and time.
The greatest expression of Jesus’ love is his humble service to his disciples – washing their feet – and his innocent sacrifice on the cross for our sins.
Thanks to Pastor Matt Popovits, Senior Pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Houston, for the three-P summary of Jesus’ love for us: Pursuit; Persistence; and Proximity. He offered these insights at the St. John National Day of Prayer breakfast on May 2, 2019.
All of this is shown to be sufficient, acceptable to God, and a complete victory by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The bottom line for Peter was simple: “Follow me.”
John also tells us that he didn’t record everything Jesus did. We have, however, the bottom line of Jesus’ ministry. It’s a bottom line of love, redemption, hope, and purpose. We can count on that!
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.
25 Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. John 21:20-25