15When 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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt 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. 18Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” 19(He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
When I was a teenager there was a popular song on the radio appropriately called “What Is Love?” This question rings through all of our hearts and minds, because love is so powerful and important in life. But stop for a minute and try to define love and you might have a difficult time pinpointing that answer. We feel it, we desire it, and we think we know it when we experience it, but what is it really?
In God’s definition of love, there is more to it than just bright red hearts and romantic roses like in the image above. Though romance and affection and friendship can be fun and meaningful experiences of love, those can become hollow experiences unless they are grounded in the unfailing love of God. Whenever our experience of love becomes wholly self-serving, love can turn oppressive and abusive. God’s love is always creative, liberating, and life-affirming because God’s love is self-sacrificial and focused on the good of the beloved.
Jesus was asking Peter for a specific response of love. This was not because Jesus was needy or that Jesus was rejecting Peter’s love. Instead, Jesus knew that Peter would only fulfill God’s purposes for his life if he were to love in that deep, others-focused way. To love that way, Peter had to abandon his fears, his shame, and – in some ways – his old ways of living.
God’s love for us is open and wide. But God’s love for us is also demanding. To love like Jesus is simple, but not easy. It takes a lot of intentional effort to love others selflessly with their well-being as your goal. Yet this love is the most rewarding experience of life. After all, have you ever experienced anything worthwhile that does not make some demands on you? How is Jesus asking you to show your love?
When have you felt God’s love in a clear, meaningful way? How was this love communicated to you and how did you receive it? What effect did this experience have on your life? Explore these questions as you journal this week and allow God to pour holy love out upon you as you remember and reflect on these experiences.
This practice allows you to listen to the Scripture for the week (in larger context) and to open yourself up to God’s voice in that Scripture.
Click on the audio link above and listen to the Scripture. As you listen this first time, ask God to point out to you a word or phrase from the Scripture.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a second time. As you listen this second time, ask God to reveal to you the holy intentions for this word or phrase that is being spoken into your life.
- Click on the audio link above again and listen to the Scripture a third time. As you listen this third time, ask God how you might respond to this word or phrase being spoken into your life today.
Cloud of Witnesses:
St. John the Apostle
John, the brother of James and the son of Zebedee, was known as the “beloved disciple.” He and Jesus had a strong bond, and he was involved in several important experiences of Jesus that were shared by only John, James, and Peter. John also wrote more significantly of God’s love than perhaps any person in history. His gospel and his three letters, which continue to be read to this day as part of our New Testament, speak beautifully of the sacrificial love of God in Jesus Christ. John was the only one of the Twelve to accompany Jesus to the cross, and he was even given the important task of caring for Jesus’s mother after his death. Interestingly, he is also the only one of the Twelve to escape martyrdom (other than Judas who ended his own life). Take some time this week to read the letters of 1, 2, and 3 John. Or read here about the traditions of his life that have been passed down through the generations. Be inspired by his words and life to love with the love of Christ.
Listen to the song, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, a beautiful Charles Wesley hymn. This hymn can be found in the United Methodist Hymnal at #384. You can download a beautiful instrumental version for meditation and prayer here. As you listen to or sing this hymn, notice how God’s love and God’s presence with us are intimately connected. What is God communicating to you through this song? What might you communicate to God through this song?
In this passage, Peter is confronted with the love of Jesus during a time in which he probably thought his recent sins (denying Jesus in his time of great need) were unforgivable. There are many persons in the world who feel the way Peter felt, thinking that there sins are unforgivable or that they are too far gone for God to love them. They need an experience of the saving, grace-filled love of God. Pray for those who are filled with shame, those who need a breakthrough experience of divine love. Ask God to use you to be a conduit of love and grace for those who feel far away from God.
Jesus’s question in this passage haunts me: “Do you love me?” What a powerful question that sinks deep into your soul! Sit with this question in silence and solitude this week. Let the question ring out in your heart, mind, and spirit. How do you respond? Do your actions speak the same as your words? What does Jesus want to reveal to you through this question? Let this question follow you throughout your week and open you up to God’s loving voice.
Take some time to reflect upon your day or your week. Follow the process below and open yourself up to the presence and work of God in your life this week. Every week the structure is the same, but some specifics are changed to reflect the Scripture of the week.
- Find a place and posture that will prepare you for prayer.
- Begin by breathing in deeply through your nose and breathing deeply out of your mouth.
- Invite God to lead you through the previous day or week. For instance, if it is Tuesday night, reflect back on Tuesday morning, afternoon, and evening. If it Saturday or Sunday, reflect back on Monday through Friday.
- Ask God to guide you through these questions:
- How have you shown love to God and others?
- How have you been loved?
- In what specific ways is God calling you to love more deeply?
- Thank God for this journey of reflection on your day or week. Ask God to continue to reveal Godself to you tomorrow.
Exercise love and forgive someone this week. Forgiveness can be restorative, but it can also be very difficult. Peter’s denial of Jesus had real consequences, but Jesus’s love for Peter was stronger than the strength of those consequences. Let your love be stronger than guilt and shame this week and open yourself up to forgiveness.
Breath Prayer: LORD God, help us love.