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.” (ESV)
Have you ever heard the phrase “you are what you eat”? I remember hearing that phrase as a child and picturing and humanoid cheeseburger walking around. I thought that if you ate the same thing over and over and over again, you would literally morph into that food.
“You are what you eat”, does bring up the point that what we bring into us changes how we feel and who we are. I know for me, if I eat a bunch of junk food, I feel pretty junky. But when I eat healthy food, I feel better. Meredith and I did the whole30 diet last September. We cut out carbs, sugars, and processed food. By the end of the 30 days, we felt great. What we put into our bodies affects us.
The same can be said about lots of other things too. I worked with a guy from Alabama once and after a while, I started picking up on some of his Alabama sayings, “y’all” or “roll tide”, that I had never even dreamed of growing up in Illinois.
What we bring into our lives changes us. It affects how we live. How we act. What habits we have. We can look at those habits and see what we truly care about, what we truly value.
What would happen then, if we looked at our lives and put Christ at the center? If we looked at our union with him and said, Jesus, my salvation, is the thing I love the most. My love for Christ is the thing I hold most dear. How would that change us? What would that life look like? A life that is forgiven by God, united with Christ.
Our text picks up right after what we talked about last week. The disciples had caught a boatload of fish and had breakfast with Jesus. After they had finished eating breakfast, Jesus turns and addresses Peter.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon, Peter, do you love me more than the rest of these other guys here? Do you really love me as much as you say you do? Do you actually believe all those things that you said to me?
Peter was the first to confess, in Matthew 16, that Jesus is “the Christ, the son of the living God” He had said that he would never deny Jesus. His actions show care and a desire to protect Jesus, cutting the ear off Mulches. Peter had a history of trying to prove his love and devotion to Christ. And Jesus gets to the heart of it. “Peter do you love me like you say you do and do you love me like you act like you do?”
Peter’s response shows us that he had been convicted of the fact of his threefold denial by the fire before Jesus died. And now, by another fire, Peter begins his threefold confirmation of love for Christ. Because Peter recognizes his sin nature, he cannot look at his own heart in this situation. Peter recognizes that when he is left up to his own ways, he will choose to sin. Instead, Peter looks to Christ. “Yes Lord, YOU KNOW I love you.” Jesus knows our deepest and truest desires and affections. Peter recognized that Jesus knows where our heart lies. Peter confessed his love and looks to Christ to search him and know him.
Jesus’ response is “feed my lambs” Show your love in your actions. Let your love shape how you live and how you act. Jesus had already given them the commission of going out and pointing people to Christ, just as he was sent. Know Jesus is saying. If you love me, go show love to others. Let your love change how you act, how you live. Put me at the center of your motives and desires for all things. And feed and care for my flock. Your actions, your habits reflect what you love.
Now in verse 16, Jesus asks Peter a second time if he loves him. And Peter’s response is the same. Jesus’s reply is the same. If you belong to me, and love me, let your life be a reflection of that love.
Jesus then asks a third and final time if Peter loves him. Just as the third denial by Peter is what convicted him, Jesus’ third question convicted Peter. It “grieved” Peter. It convicted him. Peter felt forgiveness for his denials. When we experience deep, true forgiveness, it changes us. It changed Peter. He felt the complete forgiveness of his savior. He understood Jesus’, God’s sovereignty, in deeper ways here. “Lord, you know everything, You know I love you”. Peter no longer would be seen as the guy who denied Jesus at the fire. But he is now seen as the guy who, by the fire, had received forgiveness.
Showing His forgiveness, Jesus lets Peter know that through his death, he would glorify God. Essentially saying, “Peter, despite your sin, you will glorify God to the end.”
Jesus’ final words to Peter in this passage echo some of the very first words he spoke to Peter before, “Follow me”. “Peter, you are forgiven. “Let your life reflect your love for me, and follow me”. AW Pink says this,
“Here was the final word of grace to the fallen, and now recovered disciple. Now that Peter had discovered his weakness, now that he had judged the root from which his failure had proceeded, now that he had been fully restored in heart, conscience, and commission, the Lord says, “Follow me.” This was what he had pretended to do (John 18:15), when the Lord had told him he could not (Luke 22:33, 34). But now Christ says, You may, you can, you shall. To “follow” Christ means to “deny self” and “take up the cross.” In other words, it means to be “conformed to his death.”
Peter was asked three times if he loved Jesus. And each of those three times, Peter was commissioned to live his life in a way that reflects that love. To feed, to tend, to care for Jesus’ flock, and follow Him. Jesus is asking Peter to have his life be conformed to love. To be a reflection of the Love Jesus has for Peter, shown on the cross, and be a reflection of Peter’s love for Jesus.
Our lives, as people who are united with Christ, should be a reflection of Christ’s love for us and our love for him. So the question is, does yours? Is your life a reflection of Christ’s love for you and your love for Christ? When others see how you live and how you act do they see someone who loves Jesus?
What does this life look like? First, we recognize our sin. We see that we are sinful people. So we go to God. Who is faithful and just to forgive. We receive forgiveness from God, we experience his love. We confess our sins to God and to others if necessary, and deal with sin. When we go to God, we are no longer defined by our sin, but defined by our union with Christ. Peter was no longer the denier, he was now the one who loved Jesus. Go to god, experience his love and forgiveness.
Just as when you eat junk food you feel junky, and when you eat healthy food, you feel better. We must do this on a spiritual level. We can limit the bad things we bring into our lives and bring in more of the good stuff. Bible Reading, Prayer, Christian books. If we are what we eat, let us eat the things that truly matter. Then we need to share that with others. Peter was told to care for those who belong to God. To share the gospel, to evangelize, point others to Jesus, to live as a sent one. We too, as we draw near to God, must go and help others to do the same.
What is your highest priority? What is the thing that affects your life the most? What does your life say about you?
Let your life be a reflection of your union with Christ. Find forgiveness in him and let your life be changed by that forgiveness.