Our Bible study this year recalls the details of some life-changing, biblical personal encounters with Jesus. Feel free to post your thoughts and reactions to things you have read and experienced in the study, #messagemagazine. Above all, it is our prayer that you get to know Jesus and experience His life-changing power for yourself.
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, 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 all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
Saying goodbye is hard to do when you know that it could be the last goodbye. It is in the last goodbye that the reality of the status of our relationship with a friend, parent, child, or spouse stares us in the face. This goodbye needs hope, comfort, and understanding.
It was by faith in God the Father that Jesus believed He would live again. His last goodbye to His mother is a touching one. Jesus—with the salvation of the world resting on His shoulders—reflected on what would happen to his mother once He was gone. He connected her to one of His disciples and a close friend, John, to make sure that she would be taken care of. Jesus said goodbye, but He didn’t do it without making sure that she was cared for. This is the way Christ is, He leaves nothing undone. He takes care of business. Even after He rose from the grave, He folded His burial robes. He left no loose ends.
So when it came to Peter, Jesus saw some loose ends. Peter had walked on water, had declared that Jesus was the Son of God, and had tried to defend Jesus forcibly when He was arrested. But Peter had created a rift between the two of them. In the critical and dramatic moments after Jesus had been betrayed by Judas and led away like a common criminal, Jesus’ friend Peter denied even knowing Him.
This was no minor break in friendship; it was major. This is the kind of break most relationships do not face, let alone come back from.
Jesus died on the cross the next day, carrying with Him the debt of the world. He rose again three days later in glorious power. Then, to confirm in their minds what they had learned, heard Him teach, and witnessed for themselves, He appeared to His disciples three times. On the third visit, however, Jesus would soon return to His place at the right hand of His Father. It is during this visit that Peter and Jesus spent some time talking. Before He said goodbye, Jesus sought to tie up a loose end.
Imagine the chilling guilt surging through Peter as Jesus looked at him.
“Peter, do you love Me?” Jesus asked.
Jesus was not asking if Peter loved Him the way we love food, TV, or our mobile phones. He was asking him do you “agape Me?” the highest form of love. Do you love me above everything else?
“Yes, I do love You,” Peter said.
The love that Peter responds with, assents to, commits to, however, is not that same love Jesus asked about. Jesus asked about agape love, yet Peter responds with a phileo love. In other words, Peter is saying that the love he has for Jesus is a friendship love.
The status of their relationship has just gotten real.
Peter had love to give, but it was not a love above everything. Instead of Jesus rejecting it, He gives Peter the responsibility to watch over His lambs, those who would come to Jesus after He was gone.
Jesus repeats His question to Peter twice more. The second time, asking Peter if Peter has agape love for him and, similarly to the first time, He told him to “tend his flock.”
However, the third time, Jesus does something that is so amazing.
This third time asking Peter if he loved Him, He acknowledged where Peter was.
“Do you phileo Me, Peter?”
In order to restore this relationship, heal the injury, Jesus did not need a grand profession that they would always be “besties” or a profession of other great things that Peter would do for Him in His name. He needed the truth. He asked this based on where Peter was, and not where He wanted him to be, or even where he will be ultimately. Jesus still loved him and He accepted what Peter had to give.
Jesus will not leave loose ends for us. Though He knows many are not yet sold out for Him, He meets us all where we may engage in relationship to Him. Though we are imperfect, and often overconfident in our commitment to Him, He has not cut us off. He knows where we are in relationship to Him, He just wants to get us to His agape so that when He comes back, we can together say goodbye to this world.
ERIC PENICK is an associate youth director for junior high, senior youth, and young adult ministries for the Southeastern California Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
Raise your hand if you like confrontation, intense encounters to resolve an issue or to get a point across. Those are the meetings that can many times come across as an intervention or attack for those involved. It can be invasive, uncomfortable, and nerve-racking, but for some reason being confrontational seemed to be an integral part of the personality of the Prince of Peace. Jesus was always initiating conversations that would make the air in the room thin. Why? In this new series in which we ask the question “Have you met Jesus?” we will explore the encounters some had with the Man who was a walking turning point.
Just to show that I am not making it up, I invite you to read the following passages. As you read, ask a few questions. Was Jesus invited to intervene? Was something said that prompted His words? Could Jesus have walked away or walked by? Why did He do or say what He did?
Read John 21
This is an interesting confrontation because it is not with an unfamiliar individual but someone who Jesus has been with for almost four years at this point. It can be extremely frustrating to have someone ask you a question that you think they should know the answer to. To add to the intensity of the conversation, all of the disciples were also sitting around the fire eating and listening. What comes to your mind when you read this story? What do you think was going through the mind of Peter? Why was Jesus doing this?
Let us know your responses: #messagemagazine.
Atlanta pastor Wesley Knight recently crystallized a point I believe would be beneficial for our study here. He made note of what Jesus called Peter, both when Jesus found the disciples fishing, and also in the midst of the conversation about Peter’s love for Jesus. Why is this significant? Read John 1:42.
Jesus found Peter not acting like Peter but acting like Simon. Peter was an apostle, but Simon was a fisherman. Peter had seen and performed miracles, while Simon lived on a boat for a living. When God confronts us, is it possible it is because we are not what He has called us to be? He wants more of us, but we are trying to relapse into what is comfortable. What in your life has God moved you from that you find yourself falling back into?
Let us know: #messagemagazine.
It seems with this particular instance that Jesus’ confrontation with Peter had to do with his character. This still doesn’t make clear the line of questioning that Jesus takes up once the disciples get on shore. What would your response be if Jesus asked you if you love Him? Honestly. Imagine the Creator of the world and you, the one who has provided all your needs and kept you sane, sitting in front of you asking, “Do you love me?” Read John 21:15-17, and tell us how you would feel and how you would respond.
Gary Chapman has a series of books focused on what is called “the five love languages.” He suggests that we all have love languages, or the ways we feel and show love. Chapman distills those ways into these most common profiles: physical touch, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and gifts.
Is it possible that God has a love language? If you have been in the church for a while you can get the idea that there are many ways to love God, and it is true. What I wonder is if there is a particular way that makes His heart flutter more than anything else? It makes me want to examine more what Jesus’ response to Peter really means. “Then feed My sheep” is what Jesus says. What does that really mean? To help guide you, I invite you to read 1 John 4. Focus on verses 17-21. Talk to us
Here’s what I want you to do. If you have done it already, you can skip this portion. Write out a list of people that God has allowed to be in your circle of influence. Then look over the list and write out a list of people that do not necessarily go to church or seem religious, but who are in your circle. This is your new prayer list. The first list is for you to pray to be a spiritual support to those who are already consciously on the journey with Jesus. The other is a prayer list for you to pray for those who you want God to teach you how to love and “feed.”
As we explore the encounters that different people have had with Jesus we must keep in mind that Jesus is making a perfect people for that place made perfect. He is always looking to refine character and grow faith. I pray that you will examine who you are and what Jesus has called you to be. I hope that you are more cognizant of the sheep that Jesus has blessed you to have the ability to feed for the love of Him.
*Scriptures quotations credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Rashad Burden is an associate pastor for youth at the Buckhead Fellowship church in Buckhead, Georgia.