The Bible records these exchanges between the Lord Jesus and Peter: “Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, love you Me more than these? He said to Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said to him, Feed My lambs. He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of John, love you Me? He said to Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said to him, Feed My sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, love you Me? Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, Love you Me? And he said to Him, Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You. Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep” (John 21:15–17).
This passage of Scripture surely leaves many people confused: God examines the innermost heart of man, and so the Lord Jesus knew very well whether Peter loved Him, but He asked Peter 3 times “love you Me?” Why is this happening? What is the Lord’s will in His questioning of Peter? Let’s have a look at a few passages of God’s words that relate to this issue.
God says, “In this conversation, the Lord Jesus repeatedly asked Peter one thing: ‘Simon, son of John, love you Me?’ This is a higher standard which the Lord Jesus required from people like Peter after His resurrection, people who truly believe in Christ and strive to love the Lord. This question was a sort of investigation and interrogation, but even more, it was a requirement and an expectation of people like Peter. The Lord Jesus used this method of questioning so that people would reflect on themselves and look into themselves and ask: What are the Lord Jesus’ requirements for people? Do I love the Lord? Am I a person who loves God? How should I love God? Even though the Lord Jesus only asked this question of Peter, the truth is that in His heart, by asking Peter these questions, He wanted to use this opportunity to ask this same type of question of more people who seek to love God. It is only that Peter was blessed to act as the representative of this type of person, to receive this questioning from the Lord Jesus’ own mouth.”
“The Lord Jesus’ question allows people to feel that the Lord’s expectations of people revealed in these simple words are not merely to believe in and follow Him, but to achieve having love, loving your Lord and your God. This kind of love is caring and obeying. It is humans living for God, dying for God, dedicating everything to God, and expending and giving everything for God. This kind of love is also giving God comfort, allowing Him to enjoy testimony and to be at rest. It is mankind’s repayment to God, man’s responsibility, obligation and duty, and it is a way that people must follow for their entire lives. These three questions were a requirement and an exhortation that the Lord Jesus made of Peter and all people who would be made perfect. It was these three questions that led and motivated Peter to follow his path in life to the end, and it was these questions at the Lord Jesus’ parting that led Peter to start on his path of being made perfect, that led him, because of his love for the Lord, to care for the Lord’s heart, to obey the Lord, to offer comfort to the Lord, and to offer up his whole life and his whole being because of this love.”
From God’s words, we can understand that although the Lord Jesus only asked Peter “love you Me?” it is actually His requirement and expectation of all those who sincerely believe in God. The Lord hopes that people not only believe in and follow Him, but are able to truly love, obey, and care about God, to follow God’s way, and to be of one mind with God. The Lord Jesus’ thrice repeated questioning of Peter allows us to feel that God wishes to gain more people who love Him, and at the same time, it makes us reflect on ourselves to see whether or not we are someone who loves God. We say with our words that we seek to love God, and we pray and read the Bible every day. However, we expend and labor for the Lord so that we can be graced and awarded by God, and so that in the future, we will escape from the great disasters and enter the heavenly kingdom to enjoy eternal bliss. In our expending and laboring for the Lord there are transactions and demands, so when natural or man-made disasters befall us or when we suffer the torment of illness or when our desires are not satisfied, we will blame and misunderstand God, become full of rebelliousness and resistance toward God, and even go so far as to deny and betray Him at any time. Behaving this way, can we be said to have love for God?
So, what are the manifestations of those who love God? God says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37–38). “‘Love,’ as it is called, refers to an emotion that is pure and without blemish, where you use your heart to love, to feel, and to be thoughtful. In love there are no conditions, no barriers, and no distance. In love there is no suspicion, no deceit, and no cunning. In love there is no trade and nothing impure. If you love, then you will not deceive, complain, betray, rebel, exact, or seek to gain something or to gain a certain amount. If you love, then you will gladly dedicate yourself, will gladly suffer hardship, you will be compatible with Me, you will forsake all that you have for Me, you will give up your family, your future, your youth, and your marriage. If not, your love would not be love at all, but deceit and betrayal!”
God’s words show us that those who love God magnify God, care about and obey God, live by God’s word, and no longer disobey and resist God. They worry about the things that God worries about, and think about what God thinks about, they expend for God with a God-loving heart and not for the sake of their own interests, and they do everything only to obey God and repay His love, without thought of what they might gain in return. They do not complain against or betray God when natural or man-made disasters come upon them or when they suffer trials and tribulations. Such kind of love is real and pure, and it is something God wants. Take for example, Peter who strived to love God all his life. He sought and cared for the Lord’s will in all things. He endured various hardships and persecutions to spread the Lord’s gospel, but he never complained against God, and he continued pursuing to love and satisfy God to repay His love. He didn’t blame or resist God at all even when the Lord personally appeared to him in his twilight years saying that he wouldn’t be approved by God and would be handed over to Satan even though he loved God; he still maintained his devotion to and love for God. He was finally crucified upside down for the Lord. He loved God to the utmost, even obeyed unto death. He bore a strong, resounding witness for God, was made perfect by God, and became an example to aspire to for all who love God.
The Lord Jesus’ thrice repeated questioning of Peter: “love you Me?” motivated him to start on his path of loving God to the utmost, and finally he was approved and blessed by God. Similarly, if we can emulate Peter and pursue to love and satisfy God in everything, our pursuit will surely be praised by God.
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