John 21:15-23, So 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, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” 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 all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep. “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me!” Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So, Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” Therefore, this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”
Being a person of faith implies that we are also people of substance. We are never considered Christians by default or simple academic achievement, we are judged by our Holy Creator and the wisdom He has shared with us through His gospel. Some confuse spiritual ambition with real spiritual contrition. Motivation will never replace a foundation of the real submission that is realized from a place of forgiveness from our sins. In John 21-23 Jesus would explain the one inspiration that would be able to carry us through life both physical, spiritual and sacrificial. Jesus asked Peter if He really loved Him? That question would both bless and plague Peter throughout his life. It would bring both devastation from his own ill decisions and hope for an eternal life. Can you see the significant difference? There is no other motivation that will last as well as love. We might be able to work for the Lord using other motivations, but only love for Him will carry us to the throne.
We all have a variety of different abilities and talents we have been blessed with. How we serve God in the body of Christ and in the world will vary according to each individual, but serving God for a lifetime, given the blessings He has given us, will require a spiritual fuel that carries us through trials, victories, and everything else. Circumstances will occur. Trials will come. Opposition will find its way into our life, even when we are endeavoring in the most noble ways. Life can and will be HARD. Love for Jesus is the only attribute that will carry the faithful across the finish line of a well lived life for the Lord.
The Lord knew Peter’s challenges to come. He knew that Peter would face a challenging life of leading His people and eventually martyrdom. This conversation likely took place in the presence of the other disciples as a lesson for all of them to learn. As a result of the exchange, Peter found himself grieved. Peter has already fallen in the most inglorious way he could by denying Jesus. I am sure at this point he felt he had shown his contrition and repentance and needed no further challenge from Jesus in this regard. The truth is, we all need to be challenged here. Peter learned he would give the greatest possible sacrifice – his own life. The cost of following Christ will always be the same – one life! In order to go that distance we have to have an impetus that transcends ourselves. I have to think way beyond the own self in order to follow the sacrificial Messiah I have volunteered to pursue. He died on a cross. At the very least He expects us all to give our lives for the salvation of the world.
We live in a time when selfishness and shallowness have invaded every aspect of human thinking. Few people think about much beyond their own bellies or bank accounts. For most people, personal wants outweigh any other element of human existence. For us to be useful to God, we have to shed the boundaries of self-interest. The only path to get beyond our introverted perspective is to learn that others need more from us than our simple self-interest. May God help us all to live loving lives of love as we share the Gospel with the world! Godspeed on your journey.