So when they had dined, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, love you me more than these? He said to him, Yes…
St. Peter's first answer was easy and light-hearted; it came only from the surface of his mind; it was little better than "Of course I love Thee." But Christ's close and penetrating way of putting the question a second time overawed the disciple, and brought an answer from much deeper down. The third time, Jesus sent the question like a sword down to the bottom of the soul, where it drew blood, and the answer was a groan of pain out of the depths. He puts the question to us thrice, because there are three storeys in our nature; the uppermost is feeling, the middle one is intellect, and the basement is will; Jesus opens the door of each, and asks, "Lowest thou Me?"
I. FEELING. This is the most superficial of the three; and here He first puts the question. Our feelings have had many objects. We cannot remember when we began to love some of those whom we hold dear. Other passions we remember distinctly the genesis of. Now, among the objects we have loved is Christ one? — the principal one? Has our love to Him formed one of the colours which can be distinctly traced in the pattern of the past? Has it a history, and is it a distinct part of our history?
II. INTELLECT. A man who has been wise and fortunate in marriage will say, "I loved you at first, because my fancy was taken with you, and there was a blaze of feeling. But now, besides that, my calm judgment approves my choice; the experience of many years has made me only the more satisfied with it." Happy the man who can say this and the woman who hears it! Do we love Christ with such love? Perhaps our religious life began with excitement and ecstasy. This is past: but every day we are more and more convinced that in choosing Christ we choose wisely; we have a hundred times more reason for loving Him than we had then.
III. WILL. The will is the part of our nature out of which resolutions and actions come, and on this specially wishes to have a hold. Love's real trial comes when it is called upon to endure and to sacrifice. No man knows how strong his own love to any one is till it has gone past the stage at which it is a delightful feeling, and the stage at which it is sensible of deriving advantages from its object, and has arrived at the stage when it has to give everything, bearing burdens, practising self-denials for the sake of the person it loves. Cowper's lines to Mary Unwin are a perfect example of such love. Have we a love to Christ which makes us slay besetting sins because He wills it, devise liberal things for His cause, confess Him fearlessly before men, and rejoice to suffer for His sake?
(J. Stalker, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: So when they had eaten their breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I have affection for you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."