Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #316 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading John 21 today and our focus is on How Do We Show Our Love to Jesus? Why Did Jesus Ask Peter Three Different Times if He Loved Him? We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in . Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
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Today we finish up the gospel of John with chapter 21, which is the only full chapter in the Bible devoted to the 40 days of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances to His disciples, and is therefore quite fascinating.
In this chapter, Jesus has a very interesting conversation with Peter. First of all notice that Jesus does not rebuke or shame Peter for his thrice repeated denial. Peter did a horrible thing to Jesus in His hour of greatest need, and Jesus is so kind and gentle- He doesn’t hold it over Peter’s head, or remind him of it, or shame and condemn him. But He does ask him a very, very probing question: “Peter: do you love me more than all of the other disciples?” Notice Peter’s answer too – I believe Peter before the denial would have said, “You’d better believe I love you more than all of these other guys- I love you more than anybody in the world!” But this Peter – a chastened Peter who is more humble now, and more aware of his weaknesses, says, ““Yes, Lord,” he said to him, “you know that I love you.” and Jesus simply responds, “feed my lambs,” and then proceeds to ask Peter the same question again – two more times. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, and three times Peter says yes. Is this a reminder of Peter’s three denials? Possibly, but I actually think this is more of an ERASURE of Peter’s three denials – three affirmations of love to cover the three denials. At the same time, I am quite sure that this was a reminder to Peter of that failure, but also a reinstatement – Jesus gives Peter the mission to take care of His sheep. Jesus is calling Peter into His ministry once again- He is reinstating Peter.
Much has been made of the Greek in this conversation. The first two times, Jesus ask Peter – do you Agape me, and Peter responds, yes Lord – I Phileo you. This is quite interesting, but- as we have talked about before – Agape doesn’t exactly mean unconditional love, or God’s love every time it is used. Sometimes agape is used in the Bible in the same way we use the word love in a shallow context, such as, “I love ice cream,” or something along those lines. That said- it does appear that agape is a somewhat more intense form of love than phileo, or brotherly love, and the third time, Jesus asks Peter – “do you Phileo me,” and again, Peter says yes. That is quite interesting, but I don’t want it to obscure the main point of this dialog, which is quite clearly this: a way of expressing love to Jesus is to take care of His sheep- His people. How does that work? Here’s pastor Tim Keller to explain with an interesting anecdote about another pastor whom I look up to – pastor Dick Lucas.
Dick Lucas is a British Anglican minister who is now retired. He had a church in London for many years. I listened to a tape of a teaching on John 21 that was pretty interesting. He said that years ago he came to The Stony Brook School, which is a boarding school on Long Island, and he was supposed to do a kind of Christian life conference. He was speaking in chapel once or twice a day for a whole week, sort of like the Christian life speaker.
To his dismay, early in the week the headmaster got up and said, “And if any of you young students want to personally counsel with Reverend Lucas and go and talk to him about personal issues or spiritual issues and all that, you can have a personal conference, and you’ll be able to get out of class.”
Now Dick Lucas is a lifetime bachelor, a very old-fashioned Englishman in many ways. If you ever hear him on a tape and you just listen to that incredibly plummy Oxbridge accent, it’s astounding how old-fashioned he sounds. As a result of that, being an old Englishman and being a lifetime bachelor, the way he put it on the tape was, “To put it mildly, I have always found children to be a trial.”
After one day of hour after hour listening to kids, especially, if I remember correctly, 12- to 14-year-old girls talking about a particular boy in a class and saying over and over and over again, “And he doesn’t even know I exist,” Dick Lucas is sitting there going, “Oh my word,” and wanting to just say, “You little twit. You’re going to forget about him in six months. This isn’t the end of the world. What’s the matter with you?” and trying so hard to be compassionate and having so much trouble being compassionate.
“O Lord, why can’t you bring me somebody I can go to see a play with or go to a pub with? Why am I listening to these people?” After one particularly frustrating time, where he was getting very upset with himself and with the situation, he turned to the Bible for strength. He turned to John 21, and he read, “Feed my lambs.” He said it just knocked him flat, because this is what he realized.
He says even when you feed a cat you get something out of it. It nuzzles you. When you feed a cat it purrs and nuzzles you. You get something out of it. Feeding a lamb, you get nothing out of it. He realized what we’re being called to do here. “Feed my lambs” means “Love and care and serve people from whom relating gives you no intellectual, emotional, psychological, or social benefit at all.” You’re getting nothing out of it. They’re getting something out of it, but you’re getting nothing out of it.
How could you have that kind of shepherd heart? How could you be that loving, that patient a kind of person? You don’t move out into relationships and say, “Will hanging out with this person make me feel good about myself? Will I enjoy it? Will this bring an intellectual, emotional, social, psychological benefit to me or not?” No, no.
How would you like to become the kind of person who’s so filled in your own self, so un-needy, that you’re that tender and kind, you have that kind of shepherd’s heart? He realized what Jesus was saying to Peter, what Jesus was saying to Dick, and what Jesus is saying to us, is it’ll only happen when you understand yourself to be a moral failure plunged into the grace of Jesus Christ.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Bible Memory passage for the month of November: John 14:6 “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
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