John 21:15-25: Do You Love Me?
December 25, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The end of the story, but not without a punch of rhetorical power and application impact.
First, the famous three questions to Peter about whether he loves Jesus. The much misused underlying Greek differentiation between different words for “love” is not indicative of the kind of love that Jesus was asking for from Peter, for those Greek words could be used in various contexts for similar kinds of love. The point that is being made, for sure, is that Jesus is thrice asking Peter whether he loves him to undo the thrice betrayal that Peter had made of him.
Sometimes we need to hear ourselves say the thing we fear we would not say. Do you love me? Yes. Do you love me? Yes. Do you love me? Yes. And then surely would Peter have remembered those betrayals and Jesus’ look in his eye at that moment would have taken away any bitterness he had harbored towards his own failure. If you have failed Jesus at some point, you could not do better than looking for evidence of God’s Spirit in your life that shows that you do love Jesus. With that clarified, you know that you are Jesus’, you love him, and now you can move forward.
It was that forward movement towards which Jesus called him. He is to feed his sheep. This pastoral call of Peter’s is matched by the necessary mark of the true pastor. As Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is marked by his being willing to lay down his life for the sheep, so the true pastor is marked by a similar self-sacrificial service of the sheep. Peter too, then, will give up his life for the sheep. In one way or another all true pastors do.
John, “the beloved disciple,” had a different trajectory. As C.S. Lewis so memorably put on the lips of Aslan, “No one hears any story but their own,” and Peter is not told what will happen to John. We each must find from God our way and follow him as we are meant to do in our circumstances and in our own personalities and callings. May God give us grace and favor to do so, to use the gifts he has given us for his service and his glory, and to walk in the path of Christ ourselves.
The book finishes with a final affirmation of the authority of the book: John wrote this book. And a far horizon hyperbole: the world itself could not contain all the books that could be written about Jesus. But perhaps not hyperbole after all. If all the books that had been written about Jesus since were laid end-to-end, would they not reach to the moon? And if all that was said about Jesus throughout his whole life, rather than this highly selected story, and throughout all the implications of Jesus’ divine person, if all that was recorded, then yes, indeed, the world itself could not contain. Heaven is his throne and earth is his footstool.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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