That is the question.
After breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” He then asked a second time, “Simon, son of Joh, do you love me?” “Yes, Master, you know I love you.” Jesus said, “Shepherd my sheep.” Then he said it a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was upset that he asked for the third time, “Do you love me?” so he answered, “Master, you know everything there is to know. You’ve got to know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” John 21:15-17 The Message
What does it really mean to love Jesus? Is it about nice warm feelings or loudly singing “O how I love Jesus?” Is loving Jesus just a way of assuring one’s place in heaven? Is it about living a good live, going to church, and being a good person? I don’t think any of the above fully explains the depth of love that Jesus is requesting of Peter and also of us. To love Jesus is to be willing to follow Jesus’ example of living for others; of working for/with the marginalized; of seeing that our neighbors have food, clothes and shelter; of working for justice and peace in our world.
Mabe this is what Jesus was trying to help Peter understand by asking him the question three times. Jesus’ response when Peter said he loved him was always pointed toward something that needed to be done for others; care for the children (lambs), look after those that are hurting (shepherd), and provide physical and spiritual needs for everyone (feed).
Jesus is asking each of us “Do you love me?” He is expecting an answer that involves us in reaching out to those in need in our families and communities. He is expecting us to be attentive to what is going on in our world; to be of service to the outcast, the different, the abused; to be advocates for justice. Jesus is asking us to do what he did and to be compassionate followers of the risen Christ.
Two older hymns can be used as prayers as you consider how you can show your love of Jesus.
Lord, speak to me, that I may speak
in living echoes of thy tone;
as thou has sought, so let me seek
thine erring children lost and lone.
Frances R. Havergal, 1872
O Master, let me walk with thee
in lowly paths of service free;
tell me thy secret; help me bear
the strain of toil, the fret of care.
Washington Gladden, 1879
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.