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Friday, April 5, 2013
Today’s Reading | John 21:15–19
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.” (NRSV)
What I find most striking about this story is not that Jesus asks three times if Peter loves him, so many times in fact that it hurts Peter’s feelings. Instead, I’m most taken aback by the way Jesus asks his question the first time: does Peter love Jesus more than the rest of the disciples?
What is Jesus getting at? Is he jealous of Peter’s affection? Is he suspicious of his commitment and devotion? Is he afraid that he will betray Jesus’ vision by catering to the desires of his colleagues?
I believe the answer is found in the way Jesus connects his three questions with the three commands to care for the very friends his initial question might seem to set in competition with himself. It’s a paradox that loving Jesus more than others results in caring for those others in the same way—like a shepherd—that the Bible talks about God and Jesus loving and caring for each of us.
God’s love is not a matter of scarcity or competition. There is more than enough love to go around, and we demonstrate our love for God by sharing God’s love with others.
Thank you, God, for loving me and caring for me like a shepherd. Help me to share that love with others by caring for them as you have done for me. Amen.
Written by John W. Vest, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry
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