So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
That was the greatest commandment—to love God supremely with heart, mind, and soul. And if that love is in place, the second commandment—love thy neighbor—would follow. From that, obedience to God would follow. A changed purpose would follow. A dedication to the work of God would follow. All of these things flow from that initial love of God with all that we are. And perhaps Jesus just wanted Peter to understand that love for Him must be at the center of everything he did. It had to be the motivation for his service and everything that came after this moment.
And once again, in His wise and gentle way, Jesus gives Peter a living demonstration of how that will work. This meal they shared on the shore after Peter’s misguided fishing trip was like a picture of what that service Peter was called to would look like. Jesus loved Peter and had fed him—not just with this meal, but with the truth of God. And Peter the fisherman was to become that fisher of men, trusting Jesus to provide the food that he could then give to others. He was to nourish, strengthen, and provide for those lambs of Jesus’ flock that He held so dear.
God sees past who we are right now and sees our potential like no one else can. And His plan for each of our lives is different. But Jesus had already told His disciples, “If you love Me, keep My commandments,” and the needed source that will supply all that we ever do for the Lord is that love for Him and the resulting love for others. It is more than just a motivation factor, but our love for Christ compels us so that we cannot help but serve Him with true desire and dedication.
Peter made a lot of mistakes, but Jesus was patient with him, and He will be with us. So maybe He is offering some reassurance to Peter after what seemed like such a crushing failure: “Don’t worry, Peter. I know you love Me, and because you love Me, you will do all that I have planned for you to do.” We’ve probably all been in a similar place where we wondered if our love for Christ was truly genuine, if it was everything we thought it was. But He does know our hearts, and He comes alongside us to encourage us to just keep going, knowing that that love we have for Him, though seemingly so fragile at times, is real enough to spur us forward into obedience to our loving Lord.