(Jhn 21:16–17) 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.
In this conversation, the Lord Jesus repeatedly asked Peter one thing: “Peter, love you Me?” This is a higher standard the Lord Jesus required from people like Peter after His resurrection, who truly believe in Christ and strive to love the Lord. This question was a sort of investigation, and a sort of interrogation, but even more, it was a requirement and an expectation of people like Peter. He used this method of questioning so that people would reflect on themselves and look into themselves: 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, He wanted to use this opportunity of asking Peter to ask this 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 questioning from the Lord Jesus’ own mouth.
Compared to “reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing,” which the Lord Jesus said to Thomas after His resurrection, His three times of questioning Peter: “Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me?” allow people to better feel the sternness of the Lord Jesus’ attitude, and the urgency He felt during His questioning. As for doubting Thomas with his crafty nature, the Lord Jesus allowed him to reach out his hand and touch His nail marks, which let him believe that the Lord Jesus was the Son of man resurrected and acknowledge the Lord Jesus’ identity as Christ. And although the Lord Jesus did not sternly rebuke Thomas, nor did He verbally express any clear judgment of him, He let him know that He understood him through practical actions, while also displaying His attitude toward and determination of that type of person. The Lord Jesus’ requirements and expectations of that type of person cannot be seen from what He said. Because people like Thomas simply do not have a thread of true faith. The Lord Jesus’ requirements for them are only in this, but the attitude He revealed toward people like Peter is entirely different. He did not require that Peter reach out his hand and touch His nail marks, nor did He say to Peter: “be not faithless, but believing.” Instead, He repeatedly asked Peter the same question. This was a thought-provoking, meaningful question that can’t help but make every follower of Christ feel remorse, and fear, but also feel the Lord Jesus’ anxious, sorrowful mood. And when they are in great pain and suffering, they are more able to understand the Lord Jesus Christ’s concern and His care; they realize His earnest teaching and strict requirements of pure, honest people. 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, loving 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 witness, and allowing Him to be at rest. It is mankind’s repayment to God, their responsibility, obligation and duty, and it is a way that mankind must follow for their entire lives. These three questions were a requirement and an exhortation 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 complete his path in life, and it was the 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.
During the Age of Grace, God’s work was primarily for two types of people. The first was the type of person who believed in and followed Him, who could keep His commandments, who could bear the cross and hold to the way of the Age of Grace. This type of person would gain God’s blessing and enjoy God’s grace. The second type of person was like Peter, someone who would be made perfect. So, after the Lord Jesus was resurrected, He first did these two very meaningful things. One was to Thomas, the other was to Peter. What do these two things represent? Do they represent God’s true intentions of saving mankind? Do they represent God’s sincerity toward mankind? The work He did with Thomas was to warn people not to be doubting, but to just believe. The work He did with Peter was to strengthen the faith of people like Peter, and to make clear requirements of this type of person, to show what goals they should be pursuing.
After the Lord Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to the people He thought necessary, spoke with them, and made requirements of them, leaving behind His intentions, and His expectations of people. That is to say, as God incarnate, it doesn’t matter if it was during His time in the flesh, or in the spiritual body after being nailed to the cross and being resurrected—His concern for mankind and requirements of people did not change. He was concerned about these disciples before He was up on the cross; in His heart, He was clear on the situation of every single person, He understood every person’s deficiency, and of course His understanding of every person was the same after He had died, resurrected, and become a spiritual body as it was when He was in the flesh. He knew that people weren’t entirely certain of His identity as Christ, but during His time in the flesh He did not make strict demands of people. But after He had been resurrected He appeared to them, and He made them absolutely certain that the Lord Jesus had come from God, that He was God incarnate, and He used the fact of His appearance and His resurrection as the greatest vision and motivation for mankind’s lifelong pursuit. His resurrection from death not only strengthened all those who followed Him, but also thoroughly put His work of the Age of Grace into effect among mankind, and thus the gospel of the Lord Jesus’ salvation in the Age of Grace gradually spread to every corner of humanity. Would you say that the Lord Jesus’ appearance after His resurrection had any significance? If you were Thomas or Peter at that time, and you encountered this one thing in your life that was so meaningful, what kind of impact would it have on you? Would you see this as the best and the greatest vision of your life of believing in God? Would you see this as a driving force of your following God, striving to satisfy Him, and pursuing love of God in your life? Would you expend a lifetime of effort to spread this greatest of visions? Would you make spreading the Lord Jesus’ salvation a commission you accept from God? Even though you have not experienced this, the two cases of Thomas and Peter are already enough for modern people to have a clear understanding of God’s will and of God. It could be said that after God had become flesh, after He personally experienced life among mankind and a human life, and after He saw the depravity of mankind and the situation of human life, God in the flesh more deeply felt the helplessness, the sadness, and the pitifulness of mankind. God gained more compassion for the human condition because of His humanity while living in the flesh, because of His instincts in the flesh. This led Him to have greater concern for His followers. These are probably things that you can’t understand, but I can describe worry and caring of God in the flesh for every one of His followers with this phrase: intense concern. Even though this term comes from human language, and even though it’s a very human phrase, it truly expresses and describes God’s feelings for His followers. As for God’s intense concern for humans, over the course of your experiences you will gradually feel this and get a taste of it. However, this can only be achieved by gradually understanding God’s disposition on the basis of pursuing a change in your own disposition. The appearance of the Lord Jesus materialized His intense concern for His followers in humanity and handed it over to His spiritual body, or you could say His divinity. His appearance allowed people to have another experience and feeling of God’s concern and care while also powerfully proving that God is the One who opens up an age, who develops an age, and He is the One who ends an age. Through His appearance He strengthened the faith of all people, and through His appearance He proved to the world the fact that He is God Himself. This gave His followers eternal confirmation, and through His appearance He also opened up a phase of His work in the new age.
Excerpted from The Word Appears in the Flesh