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Do you love me more than these?

Posted by Matt Postiff September 18, 2019 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Sanctification  Bible Texts 

After Christ rose from the dead, He met with the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. They had breakfast together, and then Jesus asked Peter:

Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" (John 21:15)

What exactly does this mean? As I see it, there are four possibilities:

1. "Do you love me more than you love these fish/nets/fishing?" That seems a bit insulting—of course Peter loves the Lord more than he loves fish and fishing. After all, he did leave fishing behind years earlier to follow the Lord.

2. Some have suggested the question is "Do you love me more than you love these other disciples?" This doesn’t seem much better than the first option. The issue is not whether Peter loves the other disciples. Nothing in the context indicates a difficulty in that area. The question has to do with whether Peter loves the Lord, not the disciples.

3. Instead, the question could refer comparatively to the love of the other disciples: "Do you love me more than these other disciples love me?" I shy away from this interpretation because I hesitate to think the Lord would be looking for comparative statements between disciples as to their love for him.

4. But there is a twist on this "comparative" interpretation that I think fits better. Peter himself had professed to be more reliable in following Christ than all the others (Matt. 26:33, Mark 14:29). Even if the others fell away, Peter asserted, he would never do so. The Lord is not asking Peter if Peter loves Jesus more than the other disciples, as if Peter is better than them. He is asking if Peter’s earlier profession to be more loyal is in fact true. Read the question with this emphasis: "Do you love me more than these others, as you professed previously?" Peter has to answer truthfully that he does love the Lord, while recognizing in humility that he was no better than the other disciples because he too had failed. The point is that Peter should humbly acknowledge that he does not in fact love the Lord more than the other disciples. Peter's initial "yes" conveys the point that he "gets it."

In the end, what matters is that we love Jesus more than anything else in our own lives. We are called to the love the Lord with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. We are not to elevate ourselves above our neighbors in our own estimation.

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