Three Times Three Times Two

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.

Mossy Limb | London, England | April 2023

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us??? How’s this: If something is in the Bible it is true. If it is found two places in the Bible, it is certainly true. If it is in the Bible three times, it is most certainly true. With this in mind I can think of several things that are most certainly true:

  • Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection (recorded in four Gospel accounts as well as referred to numerous times throughout the New Testament.
  • Marriage is another thing, specifically the words, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” That specific phrase is found in Genesis, Matthew, and Ephesians.
  • The command of Jesus to love one another, especially in John, but also in Romans, 1 Thessalonians, 1 Peter and 1 John.
  • The Great Commission in its various forms in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts.
  • Jesus’ promises to hear and answer prayer throughout the Gospels.

On this occasion, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” I believe this is because he wants Peter to think deeply about the question. This is not a throw-away question. Jesus wants to offer Peter the opportunity to consider the question from different three different angles.

  1. Does Peter love Jesus more than he fears those who confronted him the night of Jesus’ arrest? Peter denied Jesus three times that night.
  2. Does Peter love Jesus more than he loves fishing or fish, or hanging out with his buddies?
  3. Does Peter love Jesus enough to follow Jesus wherever he leads?

Certainly by the third time Jesus asks the question Peter catches on: this is not a throw away question. He needs to consider whether he loves Jesus and what that means.

So do we. Do we love Jesus? What is his word to us who say, “Yes”? I think it’s the same as to Peter, “Follow me.”

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