The Love Motivation
John 21 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
After these things Jesus manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifested Himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will also come with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
4 But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 So Jesus said to them, “Children, you do not have any fish, do you?” They answered Him, “No.” 6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.” So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. 7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish.
9 So when they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have now caught.” 11 Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and the fish likewise. 14 This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to the disciples, after He was raised from the dead.
The Love Motivation
15 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.” 16 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.” 17 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.
18 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.” 19 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!”
20 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?” 21 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23 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?”
24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. 25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.
In today’s text Jesus asks Peter the question, “Do you love Me more than these?” Three times He asks the question: “Do you love Me?” When Peter affirms his love, Jesus says: “Tend My lambs.”- “Shepherd My sheep.”- “Tend My sheep.” Many have looked at various Greek words which are translated as the English word love in order to study and better understand this text. That is indeed a valuable study. Some have focused on the words Jesus used to instruct Peter to care for His followers; tend, shepherd, some translations say feed, and there is also instruction to care for both lambs and sheep. This study and understanding is also valuable in fully comprehending the meaning of the text. In the very simplest form though, first and foremost, what is important here is the motivation for what Peter is asked to do. The motivation is love. All that Peter is asked to do, in caring for people, is based on the motivation of love, love for Jesus, not love for the people.
When Jesus was asked what is the greatest commandment in the law, He responded: “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”(Matthew 22:37-40) The motivation for all that we do is love of God, love for Jesus our Lord. We are to love others. We are to tend to their needs, feed and serve them, teach them, shepherd and guide them. The motivation for all that we do for others is love for Jesus, love for God, not love for they themselves. 1 John 4:19 says: We love, because He first loved us. The love we have, the motivation for all that we do is in response to the love of God and Jesus for us. Without the love of God, we are incapable of true, unconditional love. If we love without God our motives might include reciprocal love, loving those who love us in return or conditional love, loving those we deem worthy of our love, those who measure up to our standards. Loving without God, we may love those we feel obligated to love, family, friends etc. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are to be perfect as He is perfect, to love with the perfect love of God. We can only do that because of and in response to His love.
The world will try to tell us how we are to love them. They will tell us that love is tolerance and acceptance of them and their choices, tolerance and acceptance of sin. They will say that Jesus associated with sinners, so should we. But tolerance is not how God demonstrates His love. Tolerance is not love at all. Tolerance is bearing with others in spite of how we feel. It is possible to hate and tolerate, but it is not possible to hate and love. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love of God is demonstrated in the cross of Christ. Jesus did indeed associate with sinners, but He when He was questioned about that association, He said: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32) He says: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10) The love of God, the love of Jesus does not tolerate people, leaving them unchanged, sick and lost. Rather the love of God is demonstrated in the cross of Christ, where sinners are forgiven and redeemed.
Jesus asks each of us the question, “Do you love Me?” If we will say: “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Then He calls us to feed, to tend, to shepherd His sheep. He calls us to love others with the perfect love of God, not conditional, not out of obligation, not that we would be loved in return, but to love others as we ourselves have been loved. To love them in a way that does not leave them as they were, but seeks to point them to the perfect love of God demonstrated in the cross of Christ. When we see others through the lens of our love for Jesus, we will not see the sin, but rather we will see and call forth what Christ has redeemed.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, because of the cross, because You first loved me, I say, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” Because I love You, I will love others as I have been loved, not tolerating what they do, not leaving them where and as they are, but calling them forth. Calling them redeemed through the perfect demonstration of love, the cross of Christ. Amen.