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…
At first sight this appears a singular question to Peter. You would expect expostulation and reproof. But Jesus had no need to ask Peter whether he had repented. He had "turned and looked upon Peter;" and Peter's heart broke. He had seen the former affection of Peter to his Master return with a full tide. He who knew all things knew that Peter loved Him; and gave Peter an opportunity of thrice declaring it in the presence of his fellow-disciples. When our Lord asks a disciple three times whether he loves Him, he teaches us that to love Christ is essential to our discipleship. It is "the first and great commandment," without it we are but as "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
I. THE REASONS ON WHICH OUR OBLIGATION TO LOVE CHRIST RESTS.
1. The supreme excellency of the object. We are under a kind of natural obligation to love that which is excellent. We are certainly under a moral one. In Christ all good meets; it exists in absolute perfection, and can have no addition.
(1) Do the condescensions of superior wisdom attract us? In him we see the wisdom of God, speaking to man, in words clear as the light of the intelligence from which they proceeded.
(2) Are we affected by disinterested benevolence? Behold His life of labour, given freely without an exacted return.
(3) Does humility, connected with great virtues and great actions, command the homage of the heart? It was said of Him, "He shall not strive nor cry," &c. He often said, "See thou tell no man."(4) Is there a charm in the noble passion of patriotism? For His country our Lord lived. His heart clings to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel."(5) Does friendship move us? Think of the family of Bethany; the disciple whom Jesus loved; and his kind regards for the whole body of his disciples.
(6) All moral virtues were in Him. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled." And all the stronger virtues of religion; such as meekness, patience, resignation, devotion.
2. The generous interposition of our Lord in the great work of our redemption (Romans 5:7, 8; 1 John 4:10).
3. The benefits which we are constantly receiving from His hands. Do we think of life? We owe it to His intercession. Of ordinary mercies? They are the fruits of His redemption; for we deserve nothing. Of the ordinances? They are visitations of His grace. Do we regard the future as well as the present? We expect His kingdom. Do we anticipate death? We have the victory by Him. Judgment? We have justification through His blood. Do we think of heaven? We view Him as the grand source of light, love, and joy. Should constant benefits excite love? Then surely our love ought to be constant. Should benefits of the highest kind excite the highest love? Then our love ought to be supreme. And are they never to cease? Then ought our love to be eternal.
II. THE GREAT OFFICE OF THIS GRACE IN EXPERIMENTAL AND PRACTICAL RELIGION.
1. It is this which gives the true character to evangelical obedience. None hut this is acceptable and rewardable. Man is in three states — unawakened, penitent, believing. In the first he can have no love to Christ, because he loves the world. In the second he has no love, because he has the "fear which hath torment." In the third, only, he loves, because this "love is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him." From this principle obedience derives its character. In unawakened man some acts of obedience may be apparent; but these may spring from natural temperament, from a respect to man's opinion, or even from Pharisaism. In the penitent there is the obedience of the slave: in the believer obedience is filial; his love is the "fulfilling of the law; and God graciously accepts what is done for His name's sake.
2. It is the great instrument of high and holy attainments. It produces trust, as that reciprocally produces love; it produces prayer, and so receives blessings from God; it produces the love of every thing that is like Christ. Holiness is the element of love; and it bears the soul into it.
3. It is the grand antagonist-principle of the love of the world (1 John 2:15). They cannot co-exist.
4. It is the root and nutriment of charity to man (1 Corinthians 13.).
5. It removes terrors from futurity. Futurity discloses the world where Jesus is. That is the heaven of heavens to a Christian.
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."