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Do You Love Me?

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 5/1/22 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The text was John 21:1-19.

Click here to listen/watch this song.

 


Golde goes through the litany of all she does as a good wife of the time. Doesn’t that show she loves Tevye? Ultimately, they each decide that they do love each other. As that scene closes, they sing together, “It doesn't change a thing. But even so, after twenty-five years, It's nice to know.”

 

Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” These what? In verse 15, who/what are the “these?” Is Jesus talking about fish? Since Jesus was no longer with the disciples in person, was Peter returning to fishing? Or, was it just a way for him to go to the familiar and clear his head? What do you think?

 

Are the “these” the other disciples? Here we have Jesus commissioning Peter as leader of the disciples. Does Peter love Jesus more than the other disciples do, or does he love Jesus more than he loves the other disciples?

 

Are the “these” all of the above? Was Simon Peter willing to give up all the familiar to follow Jesus and lead the disciples?

 

Three times, Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me?” Twice,  Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” The third posing of this question is a turning point for Peter and his relationship with Jesus.

 

When questioned the third time, Peter was hurt. He responded, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Was it because Jesus repeatedly asked him about his love for Jesus? Think back to Holy Week. When Jesus was tortured prior to his crucifixion, where was Peter?

 

He was with others around a coal fire to warm himself. Three times, Peter denies his discipleship of Jesus in John’s gospel. Here Jesus is asking Peter for the third time about his discipleship, his love of Jesus. Something clicked for Peter as he was reminded of his denial of being Jesus’ follower. The three-fold questions to Peter parallel Peter’s three-fold denial.

 

Here Jesus’ love is overwhelming. Peter hasn’t exactly been a model disciple. Yet, in today’s gospel, Jesus meets Peter with love, compassion and affirmation. Jesus sees Peter’s need, meets Peter in his source of shame, and gently offers a new narrative. He asks the questions Peter needs to reclaim his identity as a follower of Christ.

 

Jesus asks us, “Do you love me more than these?” We may respond, “Lord, I go to church, I give generously, I spend time with other church members, I visit the sick…” That’s our version of Golde’s list.

 

Jesus’ call to each one of us is to love him more than “these;” the “these” of work, family, home, friends. That doesn’t mean we have to live an isolated life like some desert hermits—quite the contrary, because our call is to be Christ’s presence in the world. 

 

When we encounter Jesus, we are changed and will never be the same. Jesus can be revealed in a blinding light on the road, in an abundance of fish, in breakfast on the beach. God uses all sorts of surprising things—bread, wine, water, words of forgiveness—to convert us. Like baptism, this conversion is both a once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing event and a daily process—a change that comes again and again, like Jesus’ question to Peter: “Do you love me?” Again and again, Jesus calls us to follow him… For Peter, the journey doesn’t end with breakfast on the beach. Conversion sets each of them, and each of us, on a path that continues for the rest of our life on earth—and leads into life eternal.

 

How shall we answer? Our response to Jesus makes all the difference in the world. Not only does it impact our future, but our lives here and now. No matter what we are going through, we can be assured that Christ is with us. We are not alone. This is good news to be shared with the world.

 

Thank you for your continued prayers and your generous giving to the people of Ukraine in their struggles. Through the years you’ve given for other global needs: world hunger, storm relief, and locally to 5 Loaves and 2 Fish, St. Susan’s Kitchen and the Bemus Point Food Pantry.

 

Jesus said to the disciples, “Come and have breakfast, and then follow me.” He fed them and then commissioned them. Today, Jesus feeds us in the bread and wine of the Eucharist and asks us to follow him—not to keep the love and blessings inside this church building, but to share them with the world.

 

Jesus asks us repeatedly, “Do you love me?” He invites us again and again to follow him, bringing the Easter life to others. Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” May our answer be, “Yes, Lord you know we love you.”

Amen.

 

Resources

Musixmatch, Songwriters: Jerry Bock / Sheldon Harnick. Do You Love Me? Lyrics © Jerry Bock Enterprises, Times Square Music Publications Company, Trio Music Co., Inc.

Sundaysandseasons.com

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