Do You Love Me More Than These?

The Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee

“All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give.” A beautiful, melodic song that fills the soul with warmth and hope.  Lovely lyrics that roll off the tongue like buttercream icing on a slice of moist red velvet cake. If I could only live these lyrics as easily as I can sing them

                  Last week I shared how fear can hinder us from surrendering our all to God. Well, the love of our “these” can also serve to hinder us. What “these” am I referring to? I’m so glad you asked.

                  This morning as I was reading John 21:1-19, I began to ponder Jesus’ question to Simon Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Like Peter, I was perplexed, because Jesus asked the question three times, even though Peter had assured Jesus that he did, in fact love Him. So I begin to dissect the story, to try to get a better understanding.

So if you read back a few chapters, you’ll learn that Christ had been crucified, had risen from the grave, and had just appeared to the disciples assuring them that He was, in fact alive. I can only imagine the range of emotions that the disciples were experiencing. Anger, sadness, shock, joy, awe, and perhaps some confusion too. After all, their King didn’t act like or look like a King. And just as soon as He had returned and they were beginning to wrap their minds around what had happened, He was preparing to leave them again. So Peter decides to go fishing. Maybe he decided to do what was familiar to him, to do the thing he loved to, the thing he knew how to do well – fish. I’m imagining that he was most likely fidgety, unsure of what to do with all those pent up emotions so returning to the waters that were familiar to him and maybe even relaxing for him was his response.

He called out to his boys, letting them know he was headed out to sea and the other disciples, who were probably feeling just as lost, joined him. I can imagine them out on the boat rehashing the events of the past few days. I can imagine the questions they asked, “Can you believe our Lord is alive? He really is the Son of God!” “But He’s leaving us and now what are we supposed to do? You know the Pharisees probably want to kill too.” “What are we supposed to do now?” The Bible says that they fished all night, but they caught nothing.  

Early that morning Jesus was on the shore and He called out to Peter and the other disciples, “Friends, did you catch any fish?” They answered that they had not, so Jesus told them to try again and to throw their nets on the right side of the boat this time, and He assured them that they would find fish. The disciples didn’t recognize Jesus, but maybe because they were tired, or maybe because they had had similar experiences before, they did as Jesus commanded.

When the disciples lowered the net again, they were amazed by the large amount of fish they caught. Then Jesus called out, “It’s me, Jesus, your Lord!” And guess who jumped into the water to swim to shore? Peter of course! When the other disciples finally arrived to shore, Jesus had a fish fry going and they ate breakfast together on the shore.

When they had finished eating, Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” I paused here and pondered, what “these” could Jesus be referring to? Was He asking if Peter loved Jesus more than the other disciples, or more than the meal they were eating? Or perhaps He was referring to the thing that Peter loved greatly – fishing?

During my visit to Israel in March, I had the opportunity to visit what was presumed to be the remains of Peter’s home. It was located right on the Sea of Galilee and the historians noted that Peter’s home was rather large for the average person during that time and it was ideally located and provided the perfect access to the sea. So I’m guessing that Peter did pretty well as a fisherman. He was most likely remarkable at his trade. He was most likely successful at what he did. And his life was probably very secure and stable. And then one day he got a call to be a fisherman of men. Peter knew that Jesus was extraordinary, that this calling was exceptional and he couldn’t resist it if he wanted to. So he jumped in, head first and followed Christ.

But it was during those times when life was uncertain, when accolades and praise weren’t forthcoming, when money seemed tight, and when it wasn’t so easy to trust Jesus that falling back into fishing was Peter’s mode of operandi, his default setting, his tried and true.

“Peter, do you love me more than these?” Perhaps Jesus was saying, “Peter, what I’ve been trying to tell you along is that you have to forsake everything, including fishing, and follow me. And that means in the dark, scary, ambiguous times. In the hard, frustrating, and challenging times. Even when you’d rather be fishing.”

How often do I revert back to my default setting, to that place where things were easier, where I experienced success, where I was happy, where I was sure? How often do I sing, “I surrender all”, but then I secretly add on, except for “these.” And no, my “these” aren’t fishing, but they do the same for me as perhaps fishing did for Peter. No, my “these” happen to include my family, my comfort foods, my work, my anything that prevents me from surrendering my all, at all times to Him! And please don’t misunderstand what Christ is asking us to do. He’s not saying we should go without things or persons that make us happy or stop doing the things that bring pleasure. But what He is asking is could we give up our “these” without hesitation in order to accomplish His work or His plan or His purpose? Would we choose Him over our “these” if the choice was required?

I don’t know what your “these” are, but if Christ were to ask you, to ask me, “INSERT YOUR NAME HERE, Do you love me more than “these?” Could you answer with a resounding YES?

“All my “these” I surrender, all to Him I freely give. Worldly pleasure all forsaken, in His presence daily live.” This is my prayer for each of you, as it is my prayer for myself too, as we strive to surrender all, even our “these” to Jesus Christ our Lord.

Memory Verse for the Week:  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15)

Reflections:

  • Name the “these” in your life or those things that you could potentially love more than Christ?
  • How difficult might it be for you to surrender your “these” for the sake of following Christ?
  • Consider the lyrics to “I Surrender All.” Have you surrendered everything in your life to Christ? Why or why not? In not, what holds you back? What’s most challenging to surrender?

Be blessed and be encouraged,

Davenia