Tuesday, March 6, 2012

More Than These?

"Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me more than these?"  John 21:15 (KJV)

Remember the scenario?  Jesus had just prepared a meal for His disciples, and He sat on the shore waiting for them to arrive in their boats.  After they ate, Jesus looked at Peter, and He asked him this all-important question.  "Peter, do you love me more than these?"  These, what?  What was Jesus referring to?

Many assumptions have been made concerning what Jesus meant when He said "these".  Did He mean the fish...was He was asking Peter if He loved fishing and his lifestyle more than Him?  Did He mean the people who were around Peter...the other disciples, family, other friends?  I've heard different points of view and thoughts, but since the Bible is not absolutely specific, we can only speculate exactly what Jesus meant when He asked, "Peter, do you love Me more than these?"

At any rate, Jesus went on to ask Peter two more times if he loved Him.  All three times, Peter told Jesus that he loved Him.  And after each answer, Jesus responded by asking Peter to prove it.

"Feed My lambs, Peter."

"Feed My sheep, Peter."

"Feed My sheep, Peter."

Why did Jesus ask him three times?  Again, we can only imagine Jesus' real motives and intentions.  But, Kevin gives the best explanation I have ever heard.  He said he believes Jesus asked Peter three times because Peter denied Him three times.  Peter failed Jesus...miserably.  He had declared just hours before Jesus' crucifixion that he would never deny Him.  That he would follow him to prison...even death.  That he would never let Him down.  We all know the story....when the moment of truth came, Peter didn't deliver on his promises.  So, perhaps Jesus was getting this point across to him....by asking him the same number of times that he denied Him.

It is so easy for us to make vows to God.  "Lord, if You will just get me out of this, I'll serve You."  "God, if You will just heal my body and spare my life, I will never fail you again."  "Father, if You will just let me get this job, I'll do anything You want me to do."  God must hear millions of promises every day.  But, what are promises?  The intentions behind them are noble and true, but after we are rescued from our predicaments, after our body is made well and God gives us more time to live, after we land the new job....what then?  Do we serve Him?  Do we stop with our failures?  Do we really do anything He asks us to do?  Words...so easy to utter when we are in a crisis...so easy to forget in the calm.

I think Jesus really wanted Peter to make a commitment that day.  To learn what it meant to mean what he said and say what he meant.  If Peter loved Him, Jesus was stressing the point to him that if he really loved him, there would be a price to pay.  He would have to give up the fishing and other interferences in order to serve Him full-time and feed and nurture His people.  The price tag was high.  It would cost Peter.  Did he really love Him that much?  More than these?

When it all boils down, God is asking every, single one of us the same exact question.

"Cheryl, do you love Me more than these?"

"What, Lord?  What are these?"

"These includes everyone and everything in your life.  Do you love Me more than them?  All of them?  Are any of these dearer to your heart than Me?"

"Yes, Lord, I love You.  You know that I love You.  I love You more than these....all of these."

"Okay, then...prove it.  There is a price you will have to pay.  It will cost you.  Are you sure you love Me more than these?"

Ah!  The moment of truth!  Do I?  Can I really say that God is absolutely first in my life?  Before my husband, my child, my mother, my sisters, my brother, my in-laws, my other family members, my friends, my loved ones, our home, possessions, my writing, my hobbies, past-times, things I enjoy doing...and yes, even my own life?  Do I love Him more than these?

My first knee-jerk reaction is just like Peter's....to answer an emphatic "YES, Lord.  You KNOW that I love You."

But, then I stop to consider...how do I really feel?  Where does God really come in to the picture of my life? By what number on my list of priorities does His name actually appear?  Do I really love Him more....most? More than all of these?  Really????

When God makes a request of us...when it goes against the grain...when our flesh draws back and recoils and we weigh the cost...the real truth comes out.  How far are we willing to go with God?  All the way?  To the point of whatever He asks?  No matter the cost to ourselves, our pride, our reputation, what others think of us?

God said He loved the world.  He proved it by allowing His only Son to suffer the most horrible, cruel, violent death known to man.  He went the full distance for you....and for me.  His weren't just empty words. When He said He loved us, He did everything humanly possible to prove it.  He faithfully and tenderly continues to pour love upon us day after day...in more ways than we can count.

Don't we owe Him the same?  Doesn't He deserve more than just lip-service...just idle words of "I love You, Lord" spoken through rushed lips prayed on our way out the door hurrying off to face the day...trying to make ends meet....chasing after our own dreams....reaching for another dollar?  Doesn't He deserve a long pause in our day...a prayer actually prayed on bent knees....praises sent up to Him for everything He's done and continues to do every day of our lives?  Doesn't He deserve a full commitment?  Shouldn't we love Him more than "these", whatever that may be?  And shouldn't we prove it?

At some point in time, we will all have to decide where God fits into our lives.  We will all have to answer His question...."_____Your name_____________, do you love Me more than these?"

More than your career?  More than money?  More than your home?  More than your car?  More than your ambitions?  More than your dreams?  More than your burning desire to get even with the ones who have hurt you, wronged you, and caused you pain?  More than your yearnings for things you know you shouldn't have?  Do you love Me more than all.....of these?

My friend, what will your answer be?

What is mine?

The fact is...He already knows.

And He....loves....US...regardless.

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