The Love

"Do you love Me more than these?" Jesus - John 21:15

When Jesus had finished breakfast, He focused on the hole in Peter's heart. The empty stomach of men who had been toiling all night long, at the oars and net of a fishing boat, must have left them with man-sized hunger and thirst. Jesus knew there was more that they needed. He had taught them, at the Sermon on The Mount.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." Matthew 5:6

Jesus knew the best way to fill a man was to empty him. Prayerless people are full of themselves, and incapable of being filled with anything or anyone else. Peter was the poster boy of the self-medicated person who tries to quench their thirst by reaching for salt water, or attempts to satisfy their hunger by devouring themselves.

At the home of the high priest, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Like a wolf with his leg caught in the trap, Peter gnawed it off, and limped into the night. Every time he heard a rooster crow, he was reminded of his shame.

18th Century scientist, Blaise Paschal described man's spiritual condition as a God-shaped vacuum that only Jesus could fill. Jesus had fed Peter, but after breakfast, He started to fill him. Jesus began with a question. He often does.

The filling process was not so much painful, as it was draining. Peter was confronted with the one thing that can never be faked, in the eyes of Jesus. He knows. The conversation between Jesus and Peter, is not an easy read. It is not just the obvious signs of discomfort that it brings to Peter. It reminds me of the many times Jesus has invaded my space, and commissioned His Spirit to get in my face, with the same question.

"Do you love Me more than these?" Jesus

Being called to preach was a heady experience for an eight year old boy, growing up in Dallas, Texas. I clearly heard the call to preach. I just couldn't bring myself to adhere to it. The distance between Dallas and Fort Worth is approximately 30 miles. I took the long way to get there. Sixteen years after hearing God's call to ministry, I enrolled in seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. It had been a painful journey. Never underestimate the capacity of a man, full of himself, to find a detour, when the straight path is right in front of him. Prayerlessness prolongs the process. People with "I" trouble can xpect a lot of U-turns.

Growing up in Dallas, we were taught to love God, and hate Fort Worth. As a loyal, native son, I had done my fair share of cursing "Cowtown." God has a great sense of humor. In 1974, He pointed me to Fort Worth, Texas to rediscover my First Love, Jesus, and to meet the love of my life, Dana. She often asks me, "Am I still #2?" In 35 years of marriage, that is as close as it can ever get for us. Jesus is our First Love. He plays second banana to no one.

Peter's love for Jesus was no small emotion, but his denial of Jesus, remained a major matter. This was more than a bone in his throat, and a rock in his shoe. His denial of Jesus was a gorilla on his back. Jesus knew Peter needed to be set free from his shame, so He restored God's calling on Peter's life.

Jesus took Peter back to the place where it all began, and at the point of his departure. Those who are called to follow Jesus, often allow the system to overshadow the Savior. Peter was no exception. His track record of following Jesus ran the gamut, from the profound to the profane. Peter once grandly proclaimed, "You are the Christ the Son of the Living God!" Jesus honored him for it.

As the self-appointed spokesman for The Twelve, Peter became comfortable with his role as team leader. He was a natural. This is a dangerous place to be. When men become comfortable in their ability to perform what they have been called to do, they lean on their own talents, and abilities, and become less available to The One who called them. Prayerless people may rush in where angels fear to tread, but this doesn't mean they are fearless, just reckless.

Peter's reckless behavior led him to deny Jesus three times, escalating his fear and anger, with every step in the wrong direction. Matthew's Gospel records,

"Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed." Matthew 26:74

Words mean things. The word used to translate what Jesus said to Peter was the highest form of love the Greeks could conceive. It went beyond brotherly affection, and erotic attraction. It was an act of the will, not a flight of fancy.

Peter heard Jesus say, "Do you love Me with an unconquerable benevolence, and an undefeatable goodwill? Is your love for Me, selfless or selfish? Do you love me because of what I can do for you? Does your love for Me rise and fall with every whim of your emotions? Is your love a deliberate, daily act of your will, or a periodic, spasmodic spell of nostalgia? Does your love cause you to talk about Me, more than you talk to Me? Do you find your satisfaction in doing something for Me, or spending time with Me?" DO YOU LOVE ME, or do you love the position, title, and prominence that has come to you, by My love for you? Are you wrapped up, in the trappings of your office, and the prestige it affords you? Are you willing to set "these things" aside, and once again, embrace Me?"

Peter had promised more than He could deliver. He had leaned on own supports, and ended up falling on his own sword. He was a man in need of a First Love Awakening. Jesus stirred his heart, and it stung him. When the blood flow is restricted to any part of the body, it "falls asleep." The numbness is relieved by moving it, and stirring it once again, but the price of restored movement is a stinging experience that is as inevitable, as it is painful. Peter was stung by the words of Jesus, but the blood was beginning to flow. There would be life, but it would not be painless.

"Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." John 21:16

"Revival is 'the sovereign act of God, in which He restores His own backsliding people to repentance, faith and obedience.' " Stephen Olford

Peter's anguish reminds me of The Renewal that each of us needs in our lives every day. If you can remember a time in your life when you loved Jesus more than you love Him today, you are in a back-slidden condition, and in need of a First Love Awakening.

Question: Do you love Jesus too much? Yeah. Me neither. It matters very little, how much I loved Jesus yesterday. My love for Him today is renewed by prayer. Prayer is that the restoration of the conversation with Jesus that leads me to intimacy with Him. Through prayer, He guides me away from MY will to THY will. Prayer moves me from MINE to THINE, and to His Father's direction, protection and correction.