Today’s scripture is taken from John 21:15-19. This is right after Jesus resurrected from the grave. And then he met Thomas and other disciples. And then finally he’s having conversation with Peter and you know that Peter denied Jesus three times already. So you have to have that in the background to understand this passage. So let us hear the word. “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.’ Jesus said to him, ‘feed my lambs.’ A 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.’ He 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. Very 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 the belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God. After this he said to him, ‘follow me.’ This is the word of the Lord.
Do you love God?
Do you love me? That’s a very difficult question to answer. In any circumstances, in any situations between spouses or parents and children or among friends when we are faced with this question. Do you love me? That is a very difficult question because that sentence involves care, attention, deep feeling, deep connectedness, loyalty, and sometimes even sacrifice. So it is hard to say yes, I love you. So the question do you love me is a very difficult question, and Jesus asked this question to Peter. No wonder Peter could not give him the straight answer I love you. He said, rather, ‘you know that I love you.’ He didn’t say I love you. He said, ‘you know that I love you.’ It is a sheepish answer, but we understand Peter very well. I mean, as I said just now, Peter denied Jesus three times. How could he do that, for three years they got to know each other. They were like friends, good friends. You don’t do that to good friends. They are not just teacher and student, but they are like friends. They didn’t see each other once a week. They practically live together. Day in and day out for three years and they went through all difficulties together. When Jesus was persecuted, when Jesus had hard times, when Jesus performed miracles, when Jesus taught an inspirational message, Peter was right there, even on the mountain, when Jesus was changed, Peter was there. He went through everything with Jesus and then Jesus at the end said you know, I’ll be delivered into the hands of powerful people and then they will kill me. They’ll persecute me, and then Peter, you will deny me, and Peter said, ‘Lord, no, no way that will happen. Even if everybody else desserts you. I’ll never desert you. I’ll follow you to the grave. That won’t happen. You don’t do that to friend.’ That’s what Peter was saying, but when actual danger came. Peter denied Jesus saying, I don’t know that guy. I don’t know that guy, three times. That’s hard thing to do, but he was so scared. So he denied Jesus three times. Now Jesus was raised from the dead and Jesus came to Peter and asked him do you love me. He couldn’t say simply, I love you.
You know, I wonder. That can be quite a cruel question to ask Peter at them moment. I mean, he just denied him three times and then he approached him and then asked him, do you love me? That can be quite a cruel question. I was wondering why Jesus did that. Did Jesus ask Peter to give him a hard time or did Jesus asked Peter to truly find out his love? Because Jesus wasn’t sure? Or did Jesus ask Peter to tell him indirectly how disappointed he was that he denied him three times? I don’t think so. The reason Jesus asked this question was because Peter had to face that question. Do I love Jesus? Because Jesus knew that Peter was going to carry on what Jesus started and to carry on what Jesus started, he had to answer this question. He had to face this question do you love me. He had to deal with his own disappointment about himself. How could I do that to my friend and he had to deal with it. Do I really love my friend Jesus? And Jesus wanted to give him the opportunity to say, yes, I love you, but it was so hard for Peter to say that I love you. That’s why he said, you know that I love you. It’s very interesting when you read in a Greek, Jesus keeps asking three times, do you love me? And then he used the word agape for that love and agape is unconditional love. So when Jesus asked, do you love me with unconditional love, agape and Peter three times he answered it, you know that I love you and to use the word phileo, meaning brotherly love, friendly love. He can’t say with agape I love you, but with phileo love, I think that’s a very honest answer. Do you love God? Do you love Jesus? It is really hard question to answer. Some people say, it like a formula and they say, I love you Jesus and all that, but do you really love Jesus? Do you really love God? It is hard to answer because we know our own deception. We know our own faults, shortcomings and mistakes. We know our own doubts, uncertainties and skepticism. We know our own apathy, indifference and selfishness. We know our own greed for the things that we can not let go. We know all of these things inside of us, so when we are faced with this question, do you love Jesus? It’s hard to say that yes, I love you.
Do I love God. That is a question that is hard to answer, but something that we can never forget. Always we have to face it. We have to always carry that question with us. How do I love God? I cannot even see God. Human love I can feel it, but with God, how can you love God, whom you cannot feel, you cannot see, you cannot touch. I mean, we reflected on it last week. How can you love God? And then I realized you can only love God because God loved us first. Loving God does not just depend on me, loving God depends a lot on God because God loved us first, then we can only love God. So without awareness that God loves us, we can never love God. I mean love is an important thing, but we can never love God unless we realize that God loves us. When I read the scripture, I mean those are all human beings. There’s all people like you and me. They are the ones who wrote the scripture. It’s not really from heaven, the words came down and the scripture was created, they were ordinary people like you and me but they somehow knew that God loves them, God loves people. How did they know? That’s a wonder to me. They must have experienced something to understand that God loves the world, God loves the people.
To me, that’s a wonder. That’s a mystery. Abraham Heschel, who is a Jewish person, believing in Judaism. He said, “I do not ask for success in life. I asked for wonder.” Oh, how beautiful. Yes. I do not ask for success. I asked for wonder. I mean, they must have experienced some kind of wonder in life to be able to say that God loves the world and God loves us. You know that very famous passage, John 3:16 “for God so loved the world” “for God so loved the world.” How did he know? Somehow he knew. So very, very clearly he said “for God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.” God loves the world. God loves every single one of us and then more eloquently. This is described in first John. We’re not quite sure who wrote first John, but let us read, “beloved, let us love one another because love is from God. Everyone who is born of God and knows God, whoever does not love, does not know God. For God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way. God sent his only son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son to be the, the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us,” What a wisdom, what an insight. How did he know so clearly that God loves us and because God first loved us, we can love God and our love for God is translated into our love for one another. That’s what life is.
Love Your God, Love Your Neighbor
Any religion, doesn’t matter what religion. If they teach you to love God but not humanity, that’s a corrupted religion, it’s not worthwhile to take that kind of religion. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, doesn’t matter if that religion teaches you to love God but not love humanity. That’s a corrupted religion. That’s why Jesus was very, very clear about what life is. He said, life: love your God, love your neighbor as simple as that. The greatest commandment, the most essential thing is love your God and love your neighbor. First, somehow in the course of our lives, we have to understand, oh, God loves me. God loves me. That’s a very difficult realization, but somehow we have to get to that. God loves me. Once we understand that God loves me, then we can love God and we can love one another. Love is the most essential thing for any human being to do. That’s what human beings are. That’s a characteristic of human beings. That’s an essential characteristic of human beings. If you don’t know how to love, then you don’t know how to be a human being, but in the course of our lives, we have lost the ability to love. We don’t know what it means to receive love or to give love. We lost that ability, the most essential quality any human being should have. We have lost it. When we come to the realization that God loves us. Only then can this ability to love be restored. In other words, we need to be healed, since we we’re young, we felt betrayed, rejected. This why we try so hard to be recognized by other people. How cool we are, how lovable we are, how great we are because we have experienced so many failures and so much rejection since we we’re young, so we have lost the ability to simply to accept love from God and love one another. The best measure of successful life, it’s not how talented you are, how intelligent you are, how high you got in your society, how much you have. Those are not the greatest measure of success. The greatest measure of success is whether you have that ability to receive love and to give love as long as we are not free from the self centeredness, that life is a failure, but when we are free from the self centeredness and then freely love one another, then that is success. I define success of life in that way. When there’s a touch of love, everything comes alive. A dead flower comes alive and blooms. And around us there’s so much pain and hurt because of lack of love. Let us restore what should be the core of who we are. How much more success do you want, how much more money do you want? How much more proof do you need to prove. When I’m able to receive love and in return, love one another. That’s happiness. What else do you need in life? And Peter was completely restored. When Jesus came to him, that’s why Jesus approached him and then he was able to even give his life away for the sake of Jesus. That’s a beauty. That’s a beauty. That’s the power of love. Love casts out fear, even fear of death.