Do you love me? 

John 21:15-19 

We will be beginning our sabbatical year from ministry in our home country. In a situation where I will not be able to preach for a long time, today’s word is a special one for me and for you, my beloved saints. I hope that you will always remember today’s words and apply them to your life. 

What do humans live on? Humans live by love. Humans cannot exist without love. This is because God, who is love, created humans to love and live while being loved. The reason people are depressed and anxious is because they lack love. If you do not give and receive love, you will become sick. At first, it shows as a mental illness, such as emptiness, sadness, and loneliness, and gradually becomes a physical illness. Therefore, we can see that the root of all illness is the lack of love.

The core theme of many people who come to the counseling room and cry and complain of heartache, is a ‘thirst for love.’ A lack of love is what makes a person’s soul dry and sick. On the other hand, love heals our deep illnesses. When I love someone, I become a healer who brings healing for that person’s pain in that moment. When we truly love someone, we live as healers. People who live with the confidence that they are loved have high self-esteem and a sense of security. When I receive someone’s love, the power of that love heals the deep wounds within me. Like this, love has amazing power.

 Today’s text is a scene where the resurrected Jesus has a conversation alone with Peter after eating with his disciples on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus asked Peter, ‘Do you love me more than these?’ and said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He asked the second time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Take care  of my sheep.’ He did the same the third time, and asked, ‘Do you love me?’ and then said, ‘Feed my sheep.’

 Why did the Lord ask Peter, ‘Do you love me?’ The Lord is asking you and I the same question today, ‘Do you love me?’

The question that the resurrected Jesus personally asked Peter was in order to heal and restore him. The reason Jesus came to him was to restore Peter’s broken heart, which had been discouraged after he denied knowing Jesus three times earlier. It was also written to resolve the misunderstandings of the believers at the time who casted doubt and distrust toward the apostleship of Peter for denying Jesus. This questioning was to restore Peter’s lost authority and mission.

How did the Lord heal Peter’s broken heart and restore his lost authority? In today’s text, we will look at two important healing methods used by the Lord.The first is to face the wounds.

Jesus made Peter see his pain. He indirectly reminded Peter of his painful wounds by asking him three times before the charcoal fire, mirroring how Peter denied Him three times. He made Peter see his weakness by using the name Simon, son of John, instead of Peter, the name of the rock. In this way, Jesus indirectly made Peter see his mistakes and broken heart.

One of the reasons many people live without healing is because they hide their illness. In order for an alcoholic to be cured from alcohol addiction, healing is possible when they first recognize that they are in a serious situation with alcohol addiction and seek help. Acknowledging pain means facing your pain and wounds and not avoiding them. Wounds heal little by little when someone listens and sympathizes with you. James 5:16 Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. Sharing deep heartaches, sorrows, and emotions with members of a home church, with a spiritual family of people who love and trust one another, is very important for healing. Please share your innermost feelings with your spiritual family and home church family who love and trust one another. The Lord allowed Peter to see his own brokenness in order to heal his broken heart.

And in the next step, the Lord healed Peter with forgiving love.

Looking at today’s text, what kind of love did the Lord show? It is a love that serves. In the early morning, Jesus prepared a warm charcoal fire for his disciples who were exhausted from fishing all night, and grilled bread and fish to provide breakfast for them. As they had breakfast with the Lord, the doors of the disciples’ hearts were opened, and they felt the warm love of Jesus.

We can also feel the Lord’s forgiving love through the conversation between Him and Peter. Jesus did not at all criticize (rebuke) Peter or ask questions about his mistakes. The Lord knew Peter’s disappointed and broken heart. When the Lord asked him three times, ‘Do you love me?’, Peter was able to feel Jesus’ forgiving love. Even though he had betrayed Jesus when Jesus was at his lowest, the moment he heard Jesus’ question, Peter felt a heartbreaking realization of Jesus’ unchanging love for him. The same love that Jesus showed for three years once again rekindled the fiery love for Jesus that was in Peter’s soul. So, although he felt awkward and embarrassed without realizing it, he answered, “Lord, you know that I love you.” After confessing his love three times, Peter’s broken heart began to heal. The deep wounds he suffered from denying Jesus three times were healing. He gained new strength to get up from where he fell and walk. When we are exhausted and sometimes brokenhearted, what we really need is forgiving love. It is the forgiving love of the cross that allows us to get up from where we have fallen today. When will we be healed and restored? When will my personality grow and change? We are healed when we believe that the Lord gave His life for us, forgave us of our sins, and loves us even today. When we are convinced that we are loved and precious by God, we change.

 Are you exhausted? Are you tired? Do you have a broken heart? What we need is the love of the cross. It was the love of the cross that healed Peter. Do you know the love and power of the cross? Jesus was scourged, pieces of his flesh fell off, he was crowned with thorns, he was crucified, and he died, abandoned by his Father to be in a condition where it was painful for him to even breathe. Do you believe that because of Jesus’ abandonment and rejection, you have been forgiven and accepted? Do you really believe that your sins are forgiven and that you are justified by believing in the precious blood that Jesus shed on the cross? Please believe that your broken heart and body have been healed by the love of the cross.

”But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

 Dear saints, the Lord is asking you now. Jesus asks you who are tired and hurt. Beloved, do you really love me? How would you answer? Please believe that the Lord loves you with a passion that is incomparably greater than how you can love Him. How will you answer when the Lord asks you whether you love Him? Please confess, ‘I love you, Lord, who is my strength, who forgives me and accepts me just as I am.’ The love of the Lord will heal our broken and weary hearts. He will give you new strength to get up from wherever you fell.

Second, why do you think the Lord repeatedly asked Peter if he loved Him? So that we might fulfill our mission in love. 

If a wife asks her husband three times, “Do you love me?” and then asks him to do something three times, she is really asking in love. The Lord asked three times and then said the same thing to Peter three times: “Feed my lambs, Take care of my sheep”. After healing Peter’s broken heart, the Lord immediately restored Peter’s mission and office as a shepherd to care for souls. There is nothing in this world as precious as a person, and there is nothing as difficult to handle as a person, and the Lord couldn’t entrust the job of handling those precious souls to just anyone. To whom does the Lord entrust such precious souls? He entrusts them to someone who loves Jesus. So, he had to ask if Peter loved Him three times. The most important qualification in our ministry is to love the Lord. The only thing more important than ministry is having an intimate relationship with the Lord.

When I was pastoring in the United States, there was a time when circumstances allowed me to be trained in a house of prayer. This was during Sunday morning prayer in the 24-hour prayer room of the International House of Prayer. Unlike the passionate worship of the weekdays with drums and electric guitars, the praise team in that early Sunday morning sang of the Lord’s love with violins, cellos, and other soft instruments. Most of the songs were from the Song of Songs, and at that time I happened to be praying with my Bible open to Song of Songs chapter 4. Suddenly, I felt the heart of the Lord and I heard His voice: ‘Daniel, do you know how much I delight in you, how beautiful I find you? You are blameless.’ I heard the voice of Jesus confessing His love for me through the entire verse of Song of Songs chapter 4: ‘You have stolen my heart’  And at the same time, the words of Zephaniah 3:17 came to mind, “The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” I heard a clear voice telling me that God was overcome with joy because of me, he loved me with a secret love, he was singing for joy and gladness because of me. All the frustrations and heaviness regarding ministry, financial difficulties, and the pressure of writing my doctoral dissertation, that I was feeling at the time, feeling like I was going through a dark tunnel, melted away like snow. And at the same time, the joy and freedom of the Lord flooded my heart, and unknowingly tears of joy streamed down my face. It was a precious experience, a new encounter with the Lord as my Bridegroom who loves me and delights in me through Song of Songs 4. In the midst of this experience, the Lord gave me a clear message: that He called me for intimate loving fellowship with Him, which was to be a greater mission than any ministry.

God revealed Himself as a husband (Jer. 3:14; Isa. 54:5) and told the Israelites that He would marry them and that they would then know the Lord (Hos. 2:19-20). God desires an intimate, loving relationship with us more than anyone else in this world, like a husband and wife. The closest relationship in this world is that of a husband and wife. The Bible says that the relationship between Jesus and the church is that of a secret bridegroom and bride united as one flesh (Eph. 5:31-32). God sees us in that close, intimate, loving relationship. He wants us to fulfill our mission with joy and gratitude because of that passionate love. He wants us to fulfill our mission as shepherds of souls so precious to Him with the same love that we have for Him. 

While we labor in a variety of ministries and services, the Lord tells us that only one thing is sufficient: intimate fellowship with Him, which is first and foremost.

I bless you in the name of the Lord that you may fulfill your precious mission today with the same love that the Lord gives you. 

Finally, the reason the Lord asks the question ‘do you love me’ today is to follow Him in love.

The Lord makes a very serious statement about Peter’s future.

Look at verse 18. ” I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” In verse 19, John makes it clear that this statement is a prophecy of Peter’s death. And when he had said this, he said to Peter, ‘Follow me,’ meaning, don’t be anxious about tomorrow, but just follow the Lord out of love for Him.

As we know, Peter died on a cross. Legend has it that as he was about to be martyred on the cross, he said this:

“I am a sinner who has denied Jesus Christ three times, so how can I be crucified like Jesus? Hang me upside down.” So he was hung upside down on the cross with his white hair flapping. There is a very important message here. “That Peter might point out by what manner of death he would glorify God.”

We have concerns and anxieties about tomorrow, but the Lord wants us to follow Him in love. As we follow Him day by day, moment by moment, in a loving relationship with Him, He will lead us where we might not want to go, but where the Holy Spirit wants us to go, and eventually to the place of a glorious death. What a comfort this is to us. What we now need to do is very simple. We just need to love the Lord and follow Him. As you follow the Lord today, He promises to lead you to the place of martyrdom. There is an applicable truth in these words. He tells us how we can walk the path of martyrdom, the path of glorifying God: “Glorify God by dying.” There is no glory without the cross.” It’s saying that we glorify God when we die to our own ideas, our own desires, our own self, and say amen to God’s Word and obey it. An immature person is one who goes where they want to go even though they have Jesus as Lord of their heart, but a mature person is one who obeys even when the Lord says something they don’t want to hear. May you have the grace to die to your sin moment by moment at the cross and live by Jesus day by day. May you be the kind of person who glorifies God by dying to yourself and living as Jesus.

And the time to actually deny yourself and experience the cross is in prayer. Even Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Prayer is a time of self-denial. It’s a time to lay down your will and seek the Father’s will. Please Pray. Then the Lord will direct our paths to the Father’s will.

We’ve been here as missionaries for over five years now, and a lot has happened in that time. There have been so many fierce spiritual battles regarding church buildings, relationships, and ministries that I can’t even begin to mention. We did a lot of building repairs, and the Lord used the Bible College to raise up church leaders. I am thankful to the Lord that the saints are growing in health through the word of truth and the power of the Holy Spirit. I am now leaving the city for a sabbatical, but the Lord has given both me and you precious truths through today’s sermon. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, but today, the Lord wants to heal us with the love of the cross, and the Lord wants us to therefore fulfill the mission of feeding the Lord’s sheep with that same love.

And He wants that love to lead us in ways that honor Him. As we follow Him in love in these truly challenging times, He will surely be glorified through us all. Amen.

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