15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."
Do you want the fire of God’s love to burn in your heart? John the evangelist tells us that God is love (1 John 4:16).
His love is unconditional, unmerited, and without limit. It lasts forever. It’s the beginning and the end – it's the reason God created us and why he wants us to be united with him.
And it’s the essence of what is means to be a Christian – one who knows God's love and forgiveness and who loves God in return with all one's heart, soul, mind, body, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5, Luke 10:27, Mark 12:33).
God's love heals and transforms our lives and frees us from fear, selfishness, and greed. It draws us to the very heart of God and it compels us to give to him the best we have and all we possess – our gifts, our time, our resources, our full allegiance, and our very lives.
Paul the Apostle tells us that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us (Romans 5:5). What can quench such love? Certainly indifference, loss of hope, disbelief, and rejection of God and his word.
Why did Jesus question Peter’s love and fidelity three times in front of the other apostles? It must have caused Peter pain and sorrow since he had publicly denied Jesus three times. Now Peter, full of remorse and humility, unequivocally stated that he loved his master and was willing to serve him whatever it might cost.
When Jesus asks him "do you love me more than these?" Jesus may have pointed to the boats, nets and catch of fish. He may have challenged Peter to abandon his work as a fisherman for the task of shepherding God's people.
Jesus also may have pointed to the other disciples and to Peter's previous boast: "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away" (Matthew 26:33). Peter now makes no boast or comparison but humbly responds: "You know I love you."
The Lord Jesus calls each one of us, even in our weakness, sin, and failings, to love him above all else. Saint Augustine in his Confessions wrote: "Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you! ...You shone your Self upon me to drive away my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me... and in astonishment I drew my breath...now I pant for you! I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me! - and I burn to live within your peace" (Confessions 10:27).
Nothing but our sinful pride and wilfulness can keep us from the love of God. It is a free gift, unmerited and beyond payment.
We can never outmatch God in giving love. He loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding graciousness and mercy towards us.
Do you allow God's love to change and transform your heart?