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…
To comprehend this interview and dialogue, it is necessary to look at preceding circumstances. In a conversation which took place before our Lord's betrayal, Peter had made the most ardent professions of attachment and devotion to his Master. Though all should forsake Jesus, yet would not he! He was willing even to die with him! But the events of the awful night of the Lord's apprehension and mock trial before the Jewish council, had made evident the moral weakness of spiritual fiber which was hidden by his impetuous fervor. Peter's faith had failed, and he had been led by timidity to deny the Lord he loved. That he repented of his cowardice, and that with bitter tears, was known to the Master whom he had wronged. These circumstances account for the language of Jesus when he met his disciple by the lake of Galilee. Jesus elicited from his follower the thrice-repeated expression of his love, and, having done this, treated Peter as one restored and reconciled, imparted to him his apostolic commission, and predicted his future of service and of martyrdom. Turning from the special incident which called for the question and the answer here recorded, we direct attention to what is practical and of universal application.
I. A POINTED QUESTION. "Lovest thou me?"
1. This question implies that Christ has a claim upon our love. This claim is founded upon:
(1) His supreme worthiness to be loved. Who, in himself, in character, in moral excellence, can be compared with Jesus, as the Object of human affection? He was admired and loved on earth; but since his ascension he has been more intensely and far more widely admired and loved by those whom he has left behind him. In a word, he deserves love; and we "needs must love the worthiest."
(2) His love to us. Christ's is no cold, elevated dignity and excellence. He is a Being of benevolence, compassion, and tenderness; and these qualities he has displayed towards us. His love and kindness to men are simply the expression of his holy, gracious nature. He first loved us; and, if we love him not, we prove our insensibility and moral debasement. There is nothing meanly interested and unworthy in the love Christ's people bear him.
(3) Especially upon his sacrifice and death. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends;" and this proof of Divine affection Jesus gave. His was the love which is "stronger than death."
"Which of all our friends, to save us.
Could or would have shed his blood?
But Immanuel died to have us
Reconciled in him to God.
This was boundless love indeed:
Jesus is a Friend in need."
2. This question implies that Christ is solicitous and desirous of our love. Men often seek the friendship of those who are above them in abilities, in station, in character, in power. Jesus does just the contrary when he condescends to ask our love. It is a proof of his disinterested and benevolent affection, that Jesus should deign to address to each hearer of His Word the question, "Lovest thou me?"
3. This question implies that in Christ's view our love towards himself is of vast importance to us. To love him, as he knows full well, is to man the spring of the truly religious life. It is the surest means of becoming like him. Nay, to love Christ is to be in the way of loving everything that is good. It must not be supposed that such affection is the merely sentimental side of religion; it is closely connected with practice, for love is the divinely ordered motive to duty and service. How different is Christianity from other and merely human religions! These teach men to fear God, to propitiate God, but never to love God. Jesus draws our love towards himself, and thus leads us into love to God as the element of our higher life.
II. As ARDENT RESPONSE. In the case of Peter, the reply to our Lord's pointed question was most satisfactory. It may well be pondered as an example for us, as Christians, to imitate. It was:
1. An affirmative answer, inconsistent with coldness, indifference, and mere respect.
2. A modest and not a boastful answer. Peter had endured a bitter experience of the mischief of self-confidence and boastfulness; into this sin he was not likely again to fall.
3. A cordial and sincere answer, opposed to merely formal and verbal profession.
4. An open and public answer, such as should ever be given to the rightful Lord and holy Friend of man.
5. A consistent answer - one supported by a lit e of loving devotion.
6. An acceptable and accepted answer. When Jesus asks our heart, and we yield it, never need we fear lest he should reject what we offer. - T.
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."