“Do you love me?” Imagine standing in the shoes of Peter when Jesus asked him, not just once, but three times “do you love me?” This is a profound story of love, forgiveness, redemption, restoration and the call to serve. This experience for Peter came off the back of his monumental denial of Jesus. Here we find this once flamboyant, extraverted personality who had shouted his extravagant, unswerving love for Jesus from the rooftops. Yet in those moments around the courtyard fire, Peter so quickly denied the one he loved so greatly. How was he to ever recover from that defining desertion of Jesus and the deep sense of brokenness after he ran aground on the jagged rocks of denial? We are told he wept bitterly as he looked inside the open wound of his shattered soul.
If we are honest, we are all quite quick to judge Peter and in doing so, miss the insight into our own defective track records. In fact, we have all been “Peter” at some point in our lives and have denied our Lord as we stand around the courtyard fires of life. I believe Peter did love Jesus, but the tentacles of fear wrapped around him with such an intense grip, he defaulted to protecting himself as he imagined his own fate by being associated with Jesus. But the real message of the story pans from a focus on Peter’s failure to a focus on the deeper message; a story of undeserved love, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration. This is not just unique to Peter but threads through every human life. We all need a gracious Saviour who extends this same gift to us and astonishingly enables us to carry out His Kingdom mission in our faltering, imperfect states.
Peter’s recovery and reinstatement was exclusively dependent on the perfect love and grace of Jesus. That day, on the shores of Galilee for Peter would be far more than just a day fishing. Peter would be a transformed man with a transformed mission. Jesus was aware of Peter’s need for forgiveness and reinstatement before he could step into his true call. Peter had gone back to fishing, but Jesus was about to call him to a life of love and service in the Kingdom. So, when Jesus asked Peter, “do you love me?” He was asking Peter, “do you love me with a love that is transcendent and of the highest, supreme nature; more than anything else [agapelove]?” Understanding the various Greek meanings of love, I imagine that Peter was aware of the lofty nature of Jesus’ question and was not so quick to declare agape love out of fear he may fail Jesus again. Sadly, Peter seemed to have locked down that effervescent, unflinching, unbounded sense of love for Jesus. So, when he answered, he expressed a love likened to a friend and brother [phileo]. Yet, Jesus pressed the point, and wanted to unlock that supreme sense of devoted love by peeling back the layers of Peter’s heart and extending His unqualified love and grace to this son who felt so unworthy and now so tentative. Jesus was calling this fractured, imperfect man into a mission of love and service that would see Peter become a key in opening the gate of the universal church where salvation was to be extended to the Gentiles. For Peter to be truly restored and reinstated, Jesus had to call forth a love that was unshakable. Yet, this love was not dependent on Peter’s ability to generate love. The call for Peter to love Jesus in a transcendent sense was underpinned by the profound exchange of forgiveness, grace and love extended by Jesus to him, along with the reminder that Jesus’ relationship with Peter was not defined by that moment of denial. Jesus then calls Peter, an imperfect candidate, into a life of service to “tend and feed His sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Each of us have imperfect records of faithful love for Jesus. Thankfully, we are not qualified on our own merit. Just like Peter, Jesus asks “do you love me; do you love me above all else?” When we understand the depths to which Jesus loves us, we say “yes” to that profound question. And Just like Peter, Jesus trusts His Kingdom work to us in our imperfect states. What a privilege to love Jesus and to serve Him knowing we are never worthy of the call, but qualified simply because He loves us perfectly.
So, friends, get your ‘agape love’ for Jesus on today.
Best days to come