Scripture Reading: John 21:15-17
After breakfast, Yeshua said to Shim’on Kefa, “Shim’on Bar—Yochanan, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15a)
After breakfast, I said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?” I was pointing to the other disciples. Simon had always boasted of his love for Me and how, even if others failed Me, he never would. The word for love which I used was the word, “agape” which means the unconditional, perfect love of God.
This was a hard, but honest question. Peter knew now that he did not love Me more than John did, for John had risked his life to follow Me and stay by the cross, while he had denied Me and stayed away in fear of being arrested.
Peter was now humble enough not to boast that he loved Me more than anyone else did; he answered, “Yea, Lord, you know that I love thee” (John 21:15).
Peter, in telling Me that he loved Me, used the word “phileo”, which means to be a friend, the natural love that one person has for another. What he was saying was, “Yes, Lord, you know I’m your friend” (John 21:15).
I then said to him, “Feed My lambs.”
After a while I asked him the second time, “Peter, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” Again I used the term for love which God has for man.
Peter answered, “Yes Lord, you know I love (care for) you.” I commanded him, “Shepherd My sheep!” (John 21:16).
After still a while, I asked him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” This time I too used the word for love which expresses phileo love… the love of family and friends.
Peter was grieved because I had asked him that question the third time. He answered Me, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love (have phileo—love for) you.”
The third time I said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
I didn’t challenge Peter with this important question until he had finished eating. It is wrong to involve another with a difficult problem or an embarrassing situation when that one is eating, yet many use the mealtime as a place to pick their fights and argue over family problems. This is wrong. It causes physical illnesses. The table should be a place of loving fellowship (Proverbs 15:17; 17:1).
I did not ask Peter, “How many tears did you shed because of your denial of Me?” No, I asked him how much he loved Me. It is not only repentance that counts, but love.
It was on that one condition — that he loved Me — that I could entrust My sheep into his care. If a shepherd does not love Me, he will not love My sheep. Great responsibilities are given by God to those who love greatly. I know that love will enable him to bear the burden of the work, with its difficulties, and with those who are contrary. Not all sheep are lambs. When they are young, they are cute and loveable; but as they grow older there sometimes are some very contrary ones among them. The prophet was right when he said “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Yes, My sheep do go astray. Yes, they do have iniquities. The word “iniquity” means perverseness, failure, sin, guilt, faults, crime, mischief, misdeed, crooked behavior. All these describe My people, the sheep of My pasture.
It takes love to be a true shepherd to this kind of people. And the only way that you can love them is if you love Me.
Today I ask you the question, “Lovest THOU Me?” If you have perfect love, even “agape” love (the love that I have for you), you will be able to care for My sheep and feed them in the same way that I would. You will continue in My ministry to them.
The fact that I entrusted Peter with this great responsibility was proof that I had forgiven him for going astray like a sheep himself.
I have a work for you to do; it is even a great work, but you must love. Without love, the task I have given you will not only destroy those whom I place in your care — it will also destroy you.
From the Heart of Jesus by Gwen Shaw
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