So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes…
I. THE LORD'S QUESTION.
1. The question itself.
(1) The feeling inquired about. Other feelings there are which often move the soul; but love surpasses them all. Every one knows what is meant by love.
(2) The object of the love to which the question relates. The question is not, dost thou love at all? Perhaps there never was a heart so hard as to be entirely a stranger to it. The question is, among the various objects thy love embraces, is that object to be found whose claim is paramount? We say not that unrenewed persons do not love at all; but they love other objects in place of Christ. But the new birth carries up the dear emotion to the object that best deserves it.
(3) The degree of this love to Christ. The question may mean, either, "Lovest thou Me more than these men? or more than these things," and calls upon us to say, not that we love the Lord, but how much we love Him. Does it prevail over the love we feel for inferior objects?
2. The circumstance that Christ puts the question. It is often put by Christ's friends and ministers; but it comes with deeper meaning and greater power from Christ. It implies —
(1) That Christ considers He has a claim to the love of His people. What are the grounds of this claim? We ought to love Him —
(a) For what He is. What saith the law? "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart," &c., "and thy neighbour as thyself." God and man, as Christ is, in one Person, both tables of the law command Him to be loved —
(b) For what He has done: long ago as God the Son in the council of peace, and in human history as the Man Christ Jesus.
(2) That He sets a value on His people s love. When another asks you, "Lovest thou Christ?" you cannot gather from it that Christ Himself cares whether you love Him or not. But Christ's own inquiry shows that the matter is not indifferent to Him. Despise His people's level He reckons it a portion of His reward. And, when He sees its fruits, He sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied.
(3) That He is concerned for the prosperity of His people's souls. The love of Christ is inseparably connected with the love of God.
(4) Let us advert to some of the occasions when Christ puts the question.
(a) The occasion of showing His own love. Such was the present. He was fresh from Calvary. "Lovest thou Me? See how I have loved thee!" Such is the occasion when a sinner is converted. Then, for the first time, a sense of Christ's love breaks in.
(b) When He gives His people special work to do.
(c) In the day of temptation, and suffering for His sake. Trials bring our love to the proof.
3. The circumstance that Christ repeats it. The gospel ministry puts it from week to week. Why? Because —
(1) Love to Christ is of vital importance.
(2) There is a spurious love to Christ, a feeling of sentimentalism, which is called, by some, love to Christ. There are some, too, who love a Christ of their own, who, they fancy, takes away the sting from sin. As if that were possible, or that God's holy Son would do it if He could!
II. THE DISCIPLE'S ANSWER. We cannot say that believers are always able to reply as Peter did. There are times when they think that they do not love the Lord. And. there are times when the utmost length they can go is, "Lord, I can scarcely tell if I love Thee or not." Yet there are times when they can use Peter's language. Secret seasons of enlargement, when the Lord unveils His face to them, and they see the King in His beauty. Words are good, but not essential; and there is an answer in the heart which the Lord can interpret right well.
1. Who does not know that true love can proclaim its existence through the eyes when the tongue says nothing? The soul has eyes as well as the body. And, when God's people are meditating on Christ, what are they doing but feasting the eyes of their souls, and involuntarily declaring their love to Him?
2. There are acts of memory also, which are the consequences of love. In the long absence of loved ones how fondly do we call to mind what they said to us, and cherish the particulars of the interviews we had together! And how natural is it to prize the messages they send us! Thus works the love of believers towards Christ. They take pleasure in remembering past fellowship.
3. The way, too, in which Christ's approaches are received is a declaration of love. It makes their heart leap when tidings that He is near is brought to them, and when the sound of His footsteps is heard.
III. THE LORD'S COMMAND.
1. Its nature. Christ has a flock, of which He is the owner; for it was given to Him of the Father, and He bought it with His blood. He is its Shepherd; for it was committed to His care, and He accepted the charge of it. This flock He commends to the good offices of all that love Him. Private disciple though you be, you may help to feed Christ's flock. Though you cannot dispense the bread of life by public ministrations, .you may dispense it by private intercourse, prayers, and contributions.
2. Some important principles which it involves.
(1) That love needs an exercise as well as am object. The first thing is to fix it on Christ. That being done, "Now," says the Lord, "thy love must not be idle. If thou lovest Me, go work for Me. Only thus can thy love continue and increase."(2) That love prepares us for the service of Christ. It is a motive inciting to that which is well-pleasing to Him, the doing of His will.
(3) That love must extend to His people. "Feed My lambs — feed My sheep."(4) That love ought to show itself to the world. The feeding of Christ's lambs and sheep implies publicity. It is, therefore, a confession of Christ before men. Thereby we tell the world that we love Him, and prove that we are not ashamed of His cause.
Parallel VersesKJV: So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
WEB: So when they had eaten their 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 have affection for you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."