“Simon [Peter], son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” — John 21:15
What piercing words to strike a man’s heart are these, when understood in the context of why they were given. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times at the instance of our Lord’s interrogation by the high priest, was being reinstated by his Lord. We are oft quick to criticise, but are we quick to stop and consider the times that we have fallen foul to the same sin? How infrequent we comprehend how often we dip the spear’s tip in the poison of denial and pierce our Saviour’s gentle and precious side. Simple interrogation easily answers the question, if we be humble and honest – for the deceitful heart will swiftly mollify any form of stumbling. Let us inquire: What place does Christ take in our lives? Do we give our Lord lives that He truly deserves? Do we give Him lives that are truthful and clean and pure and upright? Do we embrace Christ’s feet, or indulge carnal folly?
If we truly love God with our all, why then do we fight so hard to hold on to that which we know He is asking us to forego? Why do we cling to with all bestowed strength, and defend with all human reasoning, that which represents a floundering – be it possessions, positions, perspectives or persons?
Let God ask, and let God answer…
Do you love me more than riches? Then lay up for yourself treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
Do you love me more than the person who holds your affection? Then give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
Do you love me more than honour? Then seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Do you love me more than man’s approval? Then seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness.
Do you love me more than anything? Then love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
Do you love me more than life itself? Then deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.
How quickly the litmus test of circumstance reveals the true status of our hearts. Our mouths are bold and swift to declare, “They may desert you, but not I!” Yet, the truth of our hearts will soon be revealed along the trodden path of life with its pitfalls, perversities and profanities.
Let God ask, and let each of us answer…
Fair maiden, would you be pleased to marry a man whose attention and affection was divided? Would you happily accept the hand of him whose eye roves the grandstand while declaring his loyalty to you?
Handsome gent, would you be glad to take the hand of her who also courts another? Would you be pleased to give your life to one whose heart is warmed by many?
Is our God not a jealous God? In the face of the Cross, is Christ not worthy of our loyal affection? How shallow are many a Christian’s perspective! How callous are many a believer’s heart! Too many of the redeemed look at Peter with contempt and say, “Peter, how could you!” Yet, dear reader, if you be one who speaks such, are you not oft times glad that Christ is far enough away from you where His gaze you cannot see? Many claimed-to-be Christians have a thousand heads between them and Christ’s bruised brow, and with carefree cheerfulness never battle under a burden of righteous conviction, for they are too far from Christ’s influence and gaze. What a sad place to be! Peter was at least one of the disciples who at such a time was close to his Lord. And his Lord was close enough to Peter to be able to look into his eyes.
What pain such a gaze must have bored into the depths of Peter’s being – for he wept bitterly! Yet, once reinstated by Jesus after His resurrection, Peter ascended from brokenness to wholeness. Where is the repentant heart that recognises its foolish sin and fallen state? Where is the heart that weeps bitterly at denying its Lord? Where is the heart that travails in anguish at hurting its Saviour and displeasing its God? And where is the heart that in truthfulness declares, I am His and He is mine? In our daily walk we are to love our Lord – in our ways, in our words, in our works, and in our wants.
Hearken, my soul, and cast not condemnation upon Peter, but seek the mercy of thy Saviour and whole-heartedly love the Lord thy God, lest the day come that will bring to light the truthfulness of thy state, when He asks, “‘Peter’, do you truly love me?”
As I stood on the outskirts and watched the scene unfold,
I looked at Peter, and was smitten by the words he had just told.
Peter, how could you, I heard myself say,
In the face of all He’s done – shame on you this day!
Then my Lord turned to me, His eyes bore right through,
His words pierced my heart as He said, And what about you?
I knew no words of excuse I could give, no matter how hard I tried,
My heart before Him was open, and I knew I could not hide.
I began to shiver and shake, and my composure I could not keep,
The floodgates of my eyes let loose, and bitterly, I began to weep.
Oh, Lord, forgive me, I cried, for I honestly love you,
May your merciful hand help me to honour you in all that I do!
When restored by my Lord, His words my heart having pained,
I knew that His mercy and favour I had once again obtained.
And as His bride-to-be, I knew the outworking He needs to see,
of these words, “Yes, Lord, above all these, I truly love thee!”