Will you love me “more than these”?
This past month, along with @CatalystTPCC student ministry, I have been participating in a 30 day challenge with @kyleidleman‘s Not a Fan. – teen edition journal. The study pushes Christians to truly access whether they’re “fans” or “followers” of Jesus. As I’ve come to learn over the years, there is a difference between “accepting” Jesus and “following” Jesus.
In particular, something that stood out to me in this study was the life of Peter. The man whom Jesus used to build His church, clearly stumbled a bit along the way. Let me highlight a few things.
First, you’ll likely recall the story of a miraculous catch of fish found in Luke 5. Peter had just come in from a long unsuccessful day of fishing. Jesus told them to return to the sea and cast their nets in deep waters. Despite grumbling and complaining, they returned and Jesus performed a miracle with an abundance of fish. I’ve omitted a few details and encourage you to re-read the text.
Now, what stood out to me this time in reading was that when Jesus told Peter, “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will catch men” (Lk 5:10), this was Peter’s second call to follow Jesus. Idleman states, “We don’t really know for sure why Peter went back home and went back to his old life of fishing, but we can make some assumptions from scripture.” Idleman goes on to suggest that Peter’s mother-in-law had become sick while Peter was following Jesus. He suggests that there is a good possibility he returned home to care for her. Additionally, money was probably getting a bit tight since Peter hadn’t been earning while he was out following Jesus. Idleman states that Peter likely felt, “he had priorities he had to take care of.”
Now, that sounds a bit farmilar. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve personally committed to follow Jesus, however, been tempted to change course as “I have priorities to take care of.” It’s comforting to hear that Peter had some of these same challenges.
Fast forwarding, I know that Peter had several other challenges along the way. One most notable is his denial of Jesus three times prior to the rooster crowing at the time of Jesus crucifixion. What I’d like to focus in on next, however, is Jesus final talk with Peter where he asked him three times if he loved Him. The story is told in John 21.
“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.” He said to him 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, “Tend 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 everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:15-19 ESV)
Idleman makes several points, however, chooses to focus in on why Jesus asked Peter if he loves him “more than these”. Idleman states:
“Some would say Jesus is pointing at the other disciples, but that wouldn’t really make sense considering Jesus was often correcting their arguments on who was the greatest. But what really brings the text to life is if Jesus is pointing at the large amount of fish they had just caught again because of the power of Jesus. 153 fish is great for a day of fishing and would have provided plenty of money for Peter and crew. Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him more than the comforts of this life. Peter (substitute Chris or your name) do you love me more than the benefits you receive from me? Will you follow me even if these things aren’t here? Will you stand up for me when everyone falls? Do you love me more than these?”
Now that hits hard. In particular, many of you know the story of how Jesus filled our nets and allowed us to focus on Truth@Work as well as other ministry related opportuities. Additionally, He has shown up routinely in times of need to provide “comfort” in the life of our family. But, what if he didn’t or doesn’t show up to “comfort” us as in the ways he has in the past. Would we love Him more than the “comforts of life”. Would we still be committed to following Him?
Well, the answer is “yes”. However, intellectually, I’m sure Peter was thinking the same at the time he denied Jesus three times. Jesus has never promised us a life of comfort and my prayers are that He’ll continue to forgive me when I stumble and guide me back to the path of being a true follower much as He did with Peter.
How about you? Will you love Him “more than these”? Are you committed to being a true “follower” of Jesus?