“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs’” John 21:15
Not long after I married my wife, Martie, I realized that she had a deep love for animals in general and dogs in particular. She grew up with Trudy, a black lab, who was a faithful friend and companion. I grew up in a home that never had any pets. (Actually, my mom had a canary, but it’s not easy to bond to a bird!) I’m sorry to admit this to all you dog lovers, but my feeling was, “Dogs? Who needs a dog? They’re for people who can’t make it with humans and need props from the animal kingdom.”
So, when Martie said, “Joe, let’s get a dog!” my answer to her was less than satisfactory. It was at that point that I woke up to a very important principle of loving relationships. It is this: You demonstrate your love to someone by caring about what they care about. Which meant that if I wanted to prove my love for Martie, I would set aside my rather warped view of pets. So that’s exactly what I did, and we bought a dog. And I helped walk the dog and feed the dog, and eventually I ended up liking the dog!
This is exactly what’s behind Jesus’ interrogation of Peter. Loving Jesus is not proven by our singing about our love for Him in church. It is most clearly demonstrated when we care about what He cares about. And, more than anything else, He cares about people. Reading through the Gospels, it becomes clear that He is “into” one thing—people. He came to our planet because people needed what He only could bring to us. And, as you probably know, He went to the extremes of self-sacrifice to prove how committed He was to meeting our needs.
What I find interesting is that His love for people was not reserved only for the people who were easy to love. He cared about the needs of tax collectors. He extended His love to despised Samaritans. He ate and fellowshiped with sinners and granted the freeing power of mercy and forgiveness to prostitutes. It didn’t make any difference—if you were warm and breathing, you mattered to Jesus.
In John 21, Peter had bailed on his calling to “fish for men” and had gone back to his old career of fishing for fish (John 21:3). After he and some others had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus showed up on the beach and filled their nets with fish. It was at this point that He did some serious business with Peter. In a triple interrogation, Jesus wanted to know if Peter loved Him. Though Peter verbally affirmed his love, Jesus made it clear that He would know that Peter loved Him only when Peter left his nets again and gave himself to the needs and nurture of people.
So here’s the takeaway. It really doesn’t make any difference how fervently you and I verbally affirm our love for Jesus. If we aren’t into extending our love and resources to the needs of others, then He doesn’t feel loved by us. It’s just that simple! But here’s the good news. People are everywhere—all kinds of them! You can find them at home, in the office, on the streets, and in heavy traffic. There may even be a few at church! So what are you waiting for? Today, Jesus has shown up on the beach of your heart and called you from a life lost in your own interests and offered you the privilege of getting involved in what He cares about—the needs and nurture of people!
- Read the conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-17. How would you respond to Jesus’ question?
- What is more important to you than the needs of others? Is it your plans, your possessions, your time, your energy? What could you intentionally do today to show your love for Jesus by reaching out to the needs of others? Make a specific plan. Just to stay in shape, do one thing each day to let Jesus know that you love Him!
- If Jesus were to approach your heart’s door, would He see a sign swinging from the door handle that reads: “Gone Fishin’”?