More than these?

John 21:15-24

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.”

20 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.

Lily Magnolia-II | London, England | April 2023

I won a third place trophy in the Punt Pass and Kick competition many years ago. It was one of the only trophies I’ve ever won. But even that isn’t the whole story. There were only four people in my category. I came in third out of four. And I suspect I may have won by only a yard. Or maybe only a foot. Or an inch?!? So I’m not inclined to offer myself as one who is better than others in most every venue.

But I’m surely better than Peter in this regard. He had boasted about his dedication to Jesus even in the face of Jesus’ challenging prophecy: “You will all fall away on account of me” (Matthew 26:31). Peter responds, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away” (Matthew 26:33). In other words Peter says he loves Jesus more fully and is more dedicated than the other 11 apostles.

So Jesus asks, “Do you love me more than these?” Is he talking about Peter’s hubris and claim that everyone else than him would fail Jesus, but he would not. Is Jesus asking, “Do you love me more than these other disciples?” A challenging question if it is so. It is also a legitimate reminder of the danger of comparing ourselves with others. We might be called on it. After all, Peter not only fell away, he denied three times that he knew Christ.

But Peter doesn’t seem to get it. His answers to Jesus each time is simply to claim that he does love Jesus. He doesn’t seem to catch the implications of Jesus’ questions. There must be something here for Jesus won’t accept Peter’s first answer. Three times Jesus asks Peter whether he loves him.

So you might skate by on the matter of comparison with others’ love. You might be able to admit that there are many who love Jesus more than you do.

But there is also another possible reference to the “these” of Jesus’ question. We might paraphrase Jesus’ question this way, “Do you love me more than these fish?” It might not be a matter of comparison with others’ love. It might be a question about recognizing Jesus as the most valuable, most precious, purest, and highest good in all of life, and loving him more than gold, silver, fame, fortune, or any other worldly treasure.

But the question at hand, in the end, isn’t about how much more we love Jesus than others do, or than the things of this world. It’s about whether or not we love Jesus. Period. To that we must answer, “Yes. But not perfectly. Not consistently. Not sufficiently. But that’s when Jesus’ love for us becomes evermore precious. And that engenders our love for him.

That’s why I love Jesus. He loves me. And you. His love is perfect and perpetual, steadfast and sacrificial. So, yes, Jesus, I love you because you loved me first and gave your life for me and sacrificed yourself for me and all who do not love you as we ought, but trust your promises. That’s the source of the true love for Jesus!

1 comment
  1. Yesterday, as i listened, “more than these” suddenly stood out! Thank you for addressing it today. I had thought only to compare the “these” with the other humans nearby at that moment, not the fish, not the table or earthen tableware and surely not as a comparison to my love for other things in this world! Thinking on this is well worth my time! Thank you for inspiring the thought!!

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