When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)
They are walking down the shoreline in the early morning sun. It had been days, maybe weeks, since that fateful night. It is just the two of them, with John following well behind. Jesus had something he wanted to say to his friend, and he didn't want to put him on the spot by asking in front of the others. It was an intimate question that He needed to ask, and it called for an intimate setting. Peter could sense something was coming, but didn't quite know what. There was still a good bit of shame and disappointment (in himself) lingering deep within his soul as he replayed that scene from the night Jesus was betrayed over and over and over again. He had denied Him, his master, his teacher, and his best friend. He had done the very thing he swore just hours before that he would never do. It was still so fresh, so painful, so haunting, so humiliating.
As they walked, Jesus sensed that there was a lot below the surface of his friend's silence. A deep wrestling was going on. So He turned to Peter and asked His question...asked the question, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” In fact, three times he asked, and three times Peter was able to answer; each question and its answer such a sweet picture of grace and intention and restoration.
And it wasn't just the question for Peter, but it was/is the question for us all. It is almost as if Jesus was saying, Peter, I love you more than life itself. I dreamt you into being and knit you together in your mother's womb. I formed your innermost parts with great care and intention, and I deeply love what I have made. When I think of you it brings a smile to my lips and joy to my heart. When I look at you my eyes light up and my heart leaps within me. How I long for you to know and understand the depths and fullness of this love. How I long for you to live your whole life from this reality. Peter, you are my Beloved...am I yours?
It is indeed the question. It is the question because understanding His incredible love is the only thing that can give us the sense of identity and purpose we most deeply long for. It is indeed the question because only when we live our lives firmly in the center of His love and affection are we able to be truly free; free of our deep need for acceptance, and affirmation, and significance. It is indeed the question because only when we live our lives firmly in the center of His love and affection are we genuinely able to love anyone else. It is indeed the question because only when we live our lives firmly in the center of His love and affection are we truly able to feed His lambs rather than feed on His lambs.
Do you love truly love me more than these? It is indeed the question. And it is indeed my question as well.