By Saying “Yes, I Love you” To Jesus you’re saying "Yes, I will allow the love of God to flow in me, through me, and all around me."
Finally the disciples have left the locked house and returned to the public eye. Either they are bored, lost or simply don’t know what else to do, they go back to their old jobs of fishing.
But you might recall, their story with Jesus begins with them dropping their nets to follow him. Jesus called them to a new life, to be fisher’s of people. Which makes his question – have you caught anything yet – a bit more consequential. And their answer a bit too telling.
My favorite part of the story is the dialogue between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” And each time Peter responds enthusiastically. Most scholars agree that in this scene Jesus is redeeming Peter for each of the three times he denied Jesus before his death. But perhaps there’s more to it.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
Today I want to look at these four simple words to see how they might speak to your heart, as you think about your answer?
The first is DO:
It’s a straightforward word that sets up a yes-no question. This isn’t an invitation. Jesus isn’t asking Peter to love him. Nor is it a plea, saying ‘will you love me?’ Jesus is straight to the point: DO you love me!
If someone asked me, “Do you like mayonnaise?” I would say, “No I do not.” Or is someone said, “Do you like craft beer.” I would enthusiastically respond, “Yes I do.” You either like mayonnaise or you don’t. And no amount of craft beer will make you change your mind. Jesus is asking you a decisive question – with zero ambiguity. Therefore, “Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.”
The next word is YOU:
Jesus asks, do YOU, Peter, love me? Do YOU, Ian, love me? Do YOU ______________ love me? You are the subject of the question. Just as Jesus chose his disciples, so too has Jesus chosen you. Now, Jesus is asking you to make a choice. Jesus wants to be in a personal, more meaningful relationship with you, but he’s not going to force you into it. He gives you the choice to say yes, or no. The onus is on you.
On day Kathleen came up to me and said, “Yes.” And I said, “What the heck are you talking about?” And she said, “Yes, I will marry you.” No matter how she came to that conclusion, her choice forever changed my life. In scripture, Jesus describes himself as the bridegroom and you as the bride. Today, Jesus is standing at the altar ready to make a commitment to you…one that will change your life forever. But will you say, “I do”?
The next word is LOVE… which gets thrown around a little too freely these days. And it might explain why we have trouble committing ourselves to it. For example I love tacos, but I’m not going to marry tacos. I love pizza but I know a relationship with pizza is not going to last very long.
Love is the verb. And it ought to evoke something greater than mere pleasure. It occurs over 680 times in the Bible. In both the Hebrew and the Greek there are multiple words used for the word love.
One is Storge: which is an affectionate love of someone in the family…parents loving their kids, a brother loving his sisters no matter how much they drive him crazy.
Then there’s Philos: the love between friends; like Jesus had with Lazarus, Mary and Martha.
Another is Eros: the physical and romantic love that happens at the end of Hallmark movies.
But my favorite is Agape. This is the selfless and unconditional love. It is the love that Jesus demonstrated on the cross for our behalf. Jesus said a just few chapters before, “there is no greater love than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
In Jesus we see the perfection of God’s sacrificial love. By this love the world is redeem back to it’s rightful place. And it will never be the same again. C.S. Lewis once wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” He is right. Which is probably why so many of us are afraid to commit to loving others beyond family and friends.
God knows what it’s like to be vulnerable. After all, God gives us the choice to accept or reject his love. But once you say ‘yes’ there’s no turning back to your old ways, being mere fishermen. Love is a verb that sends you out into the world to fish for people.
Which takes us to the last word: ME.
Last week Taylor Swift dropped a new song called “ME!” In it she sings, “I promise that you’ll never find another like me” while comparing herself to the world – proving she stands out above the rest.
As the object of the question, Jesus is also saying, “I’m the only one of me.” And so he asks “Do you love me or do you love the world?”
This is a tough question because we want God’s agape, yet seek and settle for the approval of family, friends, and lovers. But earlier in John’s gospel Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through ME.”
In choosing Jesus, you’re choosing God who first chose you to love unconditionally. By the love of God that it has extended to you through Jesus Christ, you have been made a beloved child of God; receiving grace upon grace!
Scripture tells us this is true through Jesus. But Jesus tells us is also true through you and me. If we love God, we will love one another – offering the same forgiveness and grace that God has give to us.
So here’s the takeaway. When Jesus asks “Do you love ME” it’s deeply personal. Jesus wants a more meaningful relationship with you so you can have a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God whose agape allows us to have a deep and meaningful relationship with others.
Thus Jesus emphatically proclaimed love as the most important command. Because those who truly love God will truly love their brothers and sisters. Not only love them, but cherish and feed them. To be agape.
Such love has the power to change and transform every relationship – between you and me, us and them – by uniting us in one Spirit. That is the power of God’s redeeming, unconditional love that Jesus wants to give you and me.
By saying “Yes, I love you” to Jesus, you allow God’s love to flow in and out and all around you.
By saying, “Yes” to Jesus, you are saying “Yes, I love you” to the weak and the vulnerable; to the broken and the down and out.
You’re saying, “Yes, I love you” to the hungry, thirsty, poor, and helpless; to the immigrant and the wayward; to the enemy and the stranger.
By saying, “Yes, I love you” to Jesus you begin to see and do what he does…so that others can learn and teach the will of God for other’s to learn and teach, and so on.
Your “Yes” allows the cycle of love to overpower and break the cycle of violence, hatred, racism, and tyranny that is in the world.
Jesus has already answered the question. He has already shown us the power of agape. And now it’s up to us to make the choice.
According to the gospel of John, this is the final time Jesus will appear to the disciples; but it’s not the last. Because wherever there is love, between you and me, there Christ is among us. You LOVE Me.
- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves. [Harper-Collins: 1960].