Do You Love Me?
Written by: Stacie Taylor
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A third time he asked him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt that
Jesus asked the question a third time. He said, “Lord, you know everything.
You know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Then feed my sheep.”
- John 21:17
You know what they say, “The third time’s a charm.”
And so it was in this post-resurrection conversation between Jesus and Peter (sometimes called Simon, other times called Simon Peter). After appearing to and sharing a meal with several of His disciples, Jesus specifically addresses Peter and asks him, THREE times, “Do you love me?”
What was Jesus getting at here? Does it sound to you as if Jesus is guilting Peter, or maybe that He doesn’t believe Peter’s answer? Does it seem like He’s fishing for more?
We see that Peter was struck by the questions too, but maybe for different reasons. Verse 17 tells us Peter was “hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time.” And if we consider Peter’s story as a follower of Jesus, we can understand why.
Here, as Jesus questioned Peter a third time, he must have realized that Jesus knew. I can imagine how vividly the memory haunted Peter as Jesus spoke, the echo of the rooster’s crow or the feeling in the pit of his stomach as Peter answered the third of an earlier series of questions he’d answered.
The first one: “You’re not one of that man’s disciples, are you?” the woman asked Peter. “No,” he said. “I am not.” (John 18:17)
The second: They asked him again, “You’re not one of his disciples, are you?”
He denied it, saying, “No, I am not.” (John 18:35)
And a third time: “Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?” Again Peter denied it. (John 18:27)
On the day of Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied Him three times, just as Jesus had foretold (John 13:37-38). It’s no wonder, then, that he was “hurt that Jesus asked the question a third time.” Though Jesus wasn’t physically present when Peter answered these questions, He knew what Peter had said because He is God.
Yet despite how He’d been denied, here we see the resurrected Jesus -- who called Peter in the first place, who knew what Peter would say and do, who died for Peter and every other person who’d believe in Jesus’ name -- meet Peter in his pain and failure, address what he’s done, and commission him to follow Jesus faithfully again.
Jesus knew what Peter had done, and He knew Peter’s heart. In His kindness and grace, Jesus asks the question three times, demonstrating His full knowledge of Peter’s heart. But He doesn’t stop there.
Jesus doesn’t just ask whether we love Him. He didn’t just ask Peter if he loved Him and leave it at that. Jesus reminded Peter that to love Him is to serve Him, and that to love and serve Him is to love and serve His people.
This is the beautiful, complete forgiveness and redemption we have available to us when we trust and follow Jesus.
To every inch of darkness in our hearts, He can bring light. With every piece of brokenness, He can create something beautiful anew. And in response to our every denial, He asks again, “Do you love me?” - inviting us to repent, to turn back from our failure and sin, and to turn again to Him with full trust in His power to work in us.
Today, friend, I don’t know where you stand.
Are you ignoring Jesus outright? Denying Jesus after walking with Him for a while? Are you in talks with Him about what to do now that you’ve failed? Or are you in a place where you’ve come to Him, you love Him, but you struggle to love “His sheep”?
Wherever you stand, know that His position is the same, His question is the same, and His call for you is the same. All we have to do is listen.
“Do you love me?...If you love me, feed my sheep.”
1. Where do you stand with Jesus today? Is He calling you to turn away from something specific, or are you ready to turn to Him for the first time?
2. What do you think it looks like for you to “feed Jesus’ sheep” in your everyday life?
Jesus, thank You for loving us and for giving us second chance after second chance. Thank You for Your grace. Thank You for meeting our brokenness and failure head-on, for inviting us to turn from it and turn to You every time. I love You, Lord. Amen.
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