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 everything; you know that I love you.”
The heart of Christianity isn’t found in doing a course on systematic theology or in memorizing doctrines to be regurgitated. The focal point for the Christian is a relationship with Jesus—to be known and loved by Him, and to love Him in return.
We see this illustrated firsthand when, after sharing a meal on the beach with His disciples, the risen Jesus initiated a private conversation with Peter. This talk resulted in both Peter’s conviction and calling. Supremely, though, it displays Christ’s intimate knowledge and care for those who love Him. Christ’s greatest concern was Peter’s response to His question, “Do you love me?”
In this exchange, Jesus asked Peter this question repeatedly. The question was not meant to provoke mere sentimentalism; it demanded a decision. The repetition served as a stark reminder of Peter’s three denials of knowing Christ (John 18:15-18, 25-27), and forced Peter to recognize that his recent actions had failed to show his love for Christ. He couldn’t point to his own works to justify himself.
We will come to the same realization as we consider times when we have stumbled. When Christ asks us the same question, there is nothing we can say or do in our defense to prove our love. The only thing that Peter could plead before the Father, before Christ, was God’s own omniscience: “Lord … you know that I love you.” Likewise, our only appeal is to the understanding heart of Jesus.
Our actions may discourage us, our circumstances may have buffeted and beaten us, and our love for God may be weak—but we can take comfort in the truth that Jesus knows our hearts! He knows our hearts will fail. He knows our faith can be weak. But our failings are the very reason why He came into this world, died on the cross, and rose again.
If we find ourselves needing restoration but having nothing to say in our defense, the wonderful hope we have is that we can say, “Lord, You know.” And if we find ourselves needing our love to be rekindled but having nothing within us to spark it, the wonderful truth is that we can look to our Lord hanging on a cross out of love for us: for “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Take a moment and reflect upon the immensity and the intimacy of God’s grace and love for you. Jesus bore all of your failures on the cross so that you might die to sin and live for Him (1 Peter 2:24), and He continues to pursue relationship with you despite all your imperfections. He knows you utterly, and yet He loves you perfectly.
Do you love Him? For surely there is none more worthy.
1 John 3:16-24
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg