April 16, 2021

Love, Love, Love

by Dr. Oliver Wagner

Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “feed my sheep.”
John 21:17
Well, I’ve run out of days for this week’s devotions but not out of resurrection stories from the gospels to write about. Today’s story is likely one of your favorites. Three times Peter had denied knowing or following Jesus after Jesus had been arrested and the disciples had fled. Days later, when Jesus had risen from the dead he appeared to the disciples and specifically asked Peter, “do you love me?”

Three trials revealed Peter’s fear and selfishness. Three times did Jesus’ lead disciple fail by not publicly admit his faith. Three questions then came from Jesus to Simon Peter. And three answers followed, “yes, Lord. You know that I love you.” Finally, three commands are given by Jesus: “tend and feed my lambs/sheep.”

To be restored to right relationship with Christ must have felt liberating and wonderful to Peter. A huge burden had been lifted from him! But Christ doesn’t just save and forgive for a change in status or so that Peter can rejoice. Rather, Jesus saves for a greater purpose than praise: that of caring for and lovingly serving God’s people. The “end” of love for Christ crucified and risen is not faith declared but service rendered. As another passage says, “if you love God, you must love your neighbor.” Jesus’ new commandment (given to the disciples after he washed their feet) is much the same: “love one another as I have loved you.”

If we had to boil down our good news faith to one word or summarize in one all of the commandments, that word (you already know this!) would be love. Love for Christ, love for neighbor, love for self. It was not Jesus’ questions that restored Peter from failure, but God’s amazing, abundant, death-defeating, life-giving and always-present love.
Jesus, whose very name means “he saves”, thank you for being the good shepherd who tends and feeds your sheep, even laying down your life for us. Fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbors we have from you. Amen.
Alpharetta Presbyterian Church
180 Academy Street, Alpharetta, GA 30009
770-751-0033 www.alpharettapres.com