The above is the Lord Jesus’ attitude toward those who are full of doubts. So what did the Lord Jesus say to and do for those who are able to honestly believe in and follow Him? This is what we are going to look at next, through a dialogue between the Lord Jesus and Peter.
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.
Compared to the following words, which the Lord Jesus said to Thomas after His resurrection: “Reach here your hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing,” His thrice repeated questioning of Peter: “Simon, son of John, love you Me?” allows people to better feel the sternness of the Lord Jesus’ attitude, and the urgency He felt during His questioning. As for Thomas the doubter, with his deceitful nature, the Lord Jesus allowed him to reach out his hand and touch the nail marks in His body, which led him to believe that the Lord Jesus was the Son of man resurrected, and to acknowledge the Lord Jesus’ identity as Christ. And although the Lord Jesus did not sternly rebuke Thomas and nor did He verbally express any clear judgment of him, He nonetheless used practical actions to let Thomas know that He understood him, while also displaying His attitude and determination toward 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 single shred of true faith. The Lord Jesus’ requirements for them only go so far, 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. The question was thought-provoking and meaningful, a question that cannot help but cause every follower of Christ to feel remorse and fear, but also to 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 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.
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 could be made perfect. So, after the Lord Jesus was resurrected, He first did these two most meaningful things. One was done with Thomas, the other with 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 doubters, but to simply believe. The work He did with Peter was to strengthen the faith of people like Peter, and to make clear His 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 for and expectations of people. That is to say, as God incarnate, His concern for mankind and requirements of people never changed; these remained the same when He was in the flesh and when He was in His spiritual body after being nailed to the cross and being resurrected. He was concerned about these disciples before He was up on the cross, and in His heart He was clear about the state of every single person and He understood every person’s deficiencies and, of course, His understanding of every person after He had died, been resurrected, and become a spiritual body was the same as it had been when He was in the flesh. He knew that people were not entirely certain of His identity as Christ, but during His time in the flesh He did not make strict demands of people. However, after He had been resurrected, He appeared to them, and He made them absolutely certain that the Lord Jesus had come from God and 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 it also thoroughly implemented His work of the Age of Grace 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 had on you? Would you have seen this as the best and the greatest vision of your life of believing in God? Would you have seen this as a force driving you as you followed God, strived to satisfy Him, and sought to love God in your whole life? Would you have expended a lifetime of effort to spread this greatest of visions? Would you have accepted spreading the Lord Jesus’ salvation as a commission from God? Even though you have not experienced this, the two examples of Thomas and Peter are already enough for modern people to gain a clear understanding of God and His will. It could be said that after God had become flesh, after He personally experienced the life among mankind and personally experienced the human life, and after He saw the depravity of mankind and the situation of human life at that time, God in the flesh felt more deeply how helpless, lamentable, and pitiful mankind is. God gained more empathy for the human condition because of His humanity which He possessed while living in the flesh, because of His fleshly instincts. This led Him to feel greater concern for His followers. These are probably things that you cannot understand, but I can describe this worry and care felt by God in the flesh for every one of His followers using just two words: “intense concern.” Even though this term comes from human language, and even though it is very human, it nonetheless 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. When the Lord Jesus made this appearance, it caused His intense concern for His followers in humanity to materialize and be passed over to His spiritual body, or you could say, to His divinity. His appearance allowed people to once more experience and feel God’s concern and care while also powerfully proving that God is the One who launches an age, who unfurls an age, and who also ends an age. Through His appearance, He strengthened the faith of all people and proved to the world the fact that He is God Himself. This gave His followers eternal confirmation, and through His appearance He also launched a phase of His work in the new age.
Excerpted from “God’s Work, God’s Disposition, and God Himself III” in The Word Appears in the Flesh