LOVEST THOU ME?
Sunday Morning Sermon
July 25, 1999
Fair Avenue Baptist Church
Text: John 21:19
Here is a very familiar story from the Bible but let’s review quickly.
Just a few days ago in the Garden of Gethsemane Peter had promised not only to live but to die for his Lord and Saviour.
When Judas came with the soldiers to arrest Jesus, it was Peter who had taken the sword and whacked off some guy’s ear.
But, it was this same Peter who had not once, not twice, but three times denied the Lord outside the palace of the high priest, Caiaphas.
Shortly afterward Jesus was crucified and buried.
Peter was no where to be found.
He had run away.
In the first part of John Chapter 21, Verse 6, we read these words, “Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing.”
On the surface it appears that Peter had quit on the Lord, but I’m not quite sure that is true.
I believe that Peter was discouraged like so many Christians today.
I believe he still loved the Lord, but his love for Jesus had taken a serious blow.
True, it had taken a blow due to his own failure.
Nevertheless, the love wasn’t the same.
Is your love for Jesus the same today as it was in the beginning?
It was while Peter was fishing that Jesus appeared to the apostles, but they did not recognize Him.
Finally, in VERSE SEVEN they recognized the Lord.
And that brings us to VERSE 15 where we notice the first of three questions.
We hear the words of Jesus as they penetrate the heart of Peter, “Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, LOVEST THOU ME more than these?”
Listen to Peter’s response, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”
In VERSE 16 we hear our Lord again, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”
And Peter answers again, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”
And in VERSE 17, once again Jesus asks Peter the question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”
This time Peter was grieved and his heart stirred and he answered, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”
And then in VERSE 19, we read, “And when he had spoken this, he saith to him, Follow me.”
What would our response be to that question, “Lovest thou me more than these?”
What would we say to our Lord when He said to us, “Follow me.”?
It is also very interesting to notice here that the last command that Peter received from our Lord was almost exactly like the first one.
In Mark 1:16-17 Jesus said to Peter, “Come ye after me.”
In John 21:19, Jesus said to Peter, “Follow me.”
In Mark 1 Peter forsook his nets “and followed him.”
And as we learn from the Book of Acts, after this incident in John 21:15-19, Peter, indeed, did follow his Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
My message this morning is really quite simple and is a repeat of the question that Jesus asked of Peter.
Jesus is asking us today, “Lovest thou me?”
“Lovest thou me more than these?”
I want us to think for just a few minutes on that question.
But I want us to also think about how the meaning of words often change through years of experience and maturity.
We see this so beautifully illustrated in the life of Peter.
When Peter first heard the words of Christ in Mark 1, “come ye after me,” Peter was a merely a babe in Christ.
And when Jesus said, “Come ye after me and I will make you to become fishers of men,” Peter really had no idea of what was to come.
Peter had a longing to follow Christ, the Messiah ... his Messiah, and that was what “following” meant to that young Christian.
To a babe in Christ the word “love” had a different meaning than it did by the time we reach John 21.
Several years had passed,
Peter had come of age...and quickly.
There had been all of the miracles,
There had been all the great things that came with following the Lord.
And then there was the Garden of Gethsemane ... and the denials.
Peter had witnessed the suffering of Jesus and learned the necessity of cross bearing.
When Jesus spoke those words, “Lovest thou me?” in John 21, there was much more depth and magnitude than those early days in Mark 1.
And when we think about it, that is what life does with each and every one of us.
We do not learn new words after all our years -- we simply fill the words with deeper meaning.
a) Think of the word “book,” for instance.
As a child we never truly grasp the Word of God. Even as our parents read it to us and as we one day learned to read it ourselves, we never truly grasped the magnitude of the Bible.
Far too often it is just another book.
Sir Walter Scott, a great man in history, as he lay dying to the music of bagpipes, said to his friend, “Lockhart, read to me from the Book.”
Lockhart answered, “Which book, sir?”
And then Sir Walter Scott, the same great heart in dying as he had been in living, said, “My dear friend, there is only one Book.”
This “BOOK” is the greatest “BOOK” in the world.
b) Think of the word “war,” for instance.
The man who had stood in battle,
amidst the hail of bullets,
amidst the shells and grenades,
and watched his comrades fall in death,
the word “war” has a much deeper meaning than it does to most of us in this room this morning.
The man who fought in World War II, whether in the European theater or the Pacific theater,
The man who fought in Korea, on foreign soil, in the bitter cold and fierce winters of that country,
The man who fought in Southeast Asia and Vietnam,
Those men have a much deeper and poignant meaning for the word “war.”
Most of us cannot imagine the true meaning of the word “war.”
c) Think of the word “mother.”
When we were young we took the word “mother” for granted.
We never saw the patience and the sacrifice sleeping in that word “mother.”
Now, because of the years,
the years of experience,
the years of parenthood ourselves,
we now understand,
like never before,
what the word “mother” really means.
That word we said a thousand times as a child now has a different meaning.
Life does not teach us new words, it gives us deeper and richer meaning to the words we knew as a child.
d) Think of the word “love.”
As a child it had one meaning.
As a teenager it had another, “puppy love.”
But, one day, it took on a deeper and fuller meaning.
The day we said, “I do.”
From that day forward the word “love” had a much different meaning than it did when we were teenagers.
It became real,
It became genuine,
It became full,
It became complete.
The word “love” changed and it changed us forever.
And that is exactly what happened to Peter.
The word “love” had changed.
Three times our Lord Jesus asked Peter about his “love.”
It is no coincidence that Jesus asked Peter that question three times and that Peter had denied the Lord three times.
Peter needed a wake-up call.
Has our love for the Lord changed?
Has it changed for the better?
We’ve been saved now for several years.
We’ve seen many ups and downs.
We’ve experienced life.
How would we answer our Lord if He posed that question to us this morning, “Lovest thou me?”
Is our love stronger ... or weaker?
Is our love fuller ... or empty?
Is our love where it should be, or have we experienced some of the same things as Peter?
Jesus is asking us this morning “Lovest thou me?”
How will we answer?