Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (May 5): "Do you love the Risen Lord Jesus above all else?"

Scripture: John 21:1-19

    1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. 4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered him, "No." 6 He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it  in, for the quantity of fish.
    7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he  was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so  many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
    15 When they had finished breakfast, 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." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."

Why didn't the apostles immediately recognize the Risen Lord Jesus when he greeted them at the Sea of Tiberias (also called the lake of Gennesaret or Galilee)? John gives us a clue. He states that Peter had decided to return to his home district of Galilee, very likely so he could resume his fishing career. Peter was discouraged and didn't know what to do after the tragedy of Jesus' death! He went back to his previous job as a fisherman out of uncertainty for his future. Six of the other apostles followed him back to Galilee.

The Lord Jesus renews Peter's faith and calling - and ours as well
Why did Jesus choose to reveal himself to the apostles at the Sea of Galilee - and right after they had spent a whole night of futile fishing? The Risen Lord was waiting on the shore for Peter and the other apostles. When their boat drew near the shore, Jesus questioned them and then gave a command to lower their nets into the sea. When their nets began to burst at the great haul of fish, John, the beloved disciple, recognized that it was the Lord who was speaking to them. Peter then immediately leaped from the boat and ran to the Lord. Do you run to the Lord Jesus when you meet setbacks and disappointments, and when you faith is being put to the test? The Lord Jesus is always ready to renew us in faith and to give each of us fresh hope in his promises for us.

Why did Jesus perform this miraculous catch of fish after his third resurrection appearance to the apostles? By looking back to the first miracle of the great catch of fish, we can recognize the significance of Jesus repeating this miracle again for his apostles. The first miracle took place at the beginning of Jesus' ministry in Galilee when the Lord called Peter to leave all and follow him. After Peter had fished all night and caught nothing, Jesus commanded him to lower his nets (see Luke 5:4-11). When his nets began to break under the weight of the great haul, Jesus then spoke to Peter and gave him a new calling and mission - from now on he would be "catching people" for the kingdom of God (Luke 5:10). Jesus repeats this miracle for Peter to remind him that he must continue his mission of "catching people" and "making disciples" for the kingdom of Christ.

Skeptics who disbelieve the resurrection accounts say the disciples only saw a vision of Jesus. The Gospels, however, give us a vivid picture of the reality of the resurrected and glorified body of the Lord Jesus. Jesus went out of his way to offer his disciples various proofs of his physical resurrection - that he is real and true flesh, not just a spirit or imaginary ghost.

Do you love me more than anything else?
In his third appearance to the apostles, Jesus prepared a breakfast for them and ate with them. Peter's prompt response to draw near to the Lord and eat breakfast with him stands in sharp contrast to his previous denial and distancing himself from his Master during the night of Jesus' arrest and trial. Why did Jesus question Peter's love and loyalty three times in front of the other disciples? It must have caused Peter pain and sorrow since he had publicly denied Jesus three times previously. Now Peter, full of remorse and humility, unequivocally stated that he loved his Lord and Master and was willing to serve him whatever it might cost.

When Jesus asked Peter "do you love me more than these?" he may have pointed to the boats, nets and other fishing companions. He may have challenged Peter to let go of his career as a fisherman for the task of shepherding the people whom Christ would call to be his disciples. Jesus may have also pointed to the other apostles and to Peter's previous boast: "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away" (Matthew 26:33). Peter now makes no boast or comparison but humbly responds: "You know I love you."

The Lord wants to renew our minds and rekindle our hearts with his transforming love
The Lord Jesus calls each one of us, even in our personal struggles, weakness, and sin, to draw near to him as our merciful Healer and Savior. He invites us to choose him as our Lord and to love him above all else. What can hold us back from giving him our undivided love and unqualified loyalty (Romans 8:38-39)? Nothing but our own sinful pride and stubborn will, and blind fear can hold us back from receiving his gracious forgiveness, loving-kindness, and faithful love. God's abundant grace (favor and blessing) is a free and unmerited gift, far beyond what we deserve or could possibly hope to obtain through our own means. We can never outmatch God in generosity and goodness. He loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding grace (unmerited favor) and mercy.

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) wrote in his famous confession a remarkable prayer of thanksgiving and love:
"Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you! ...You shone your Self upon me to drive away my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me... and in astonishment I drew my breath...now I pant for you! I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me! - and I burn to live within your peace. " (Confessions 10:27)

The Lord Jesus wants to personally draw near to each one of us and he knocks every day on the door of our hearts and he waits for our response (Revelation 3:20). Do you recognize the Lord's presence with you and do you listen for his voice as he speaks to you in your heart and through the word of God in the Sacred Scriptures? The Lord is ever ready to help us grow in the knowledge of his great love for us and in the exceeding richness of his mercies and goodness towards us. Ask the Lord Jesus to rekindle your love for him and to transform your life through the power and action of the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.

"Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your merciful love and remove everything that is unkind, ungrateful, unloving and unholy, and that is not in accord with your will. May I always seek to love you above all else and follow you wherever you wish to lead me."

Psalm 30:1-5,10-12

1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol, restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
10 Hear, O LORD, and be gracious to me! O LORD, be my helper!"
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
12 that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you for ever.

A Daily Quote for the early church fathers: Jesus' question to Peter, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.

"Christ rose again in the flesh, and Peter rose in the spirit because, when Christ died in his passion, Peter died by his denial. Christ the Lord was raised from the dead, and out of his love he raised Peter. He questioned him about the love he was confessing and entrusted him with his sheep. After all, what benefit could Peter confer on Christ by the mere fact of his loving Christ? If Christ loves you, it is to your advantage, not Christ's. And if you love Christ, it is to your advantage, not Christ's. And yet Christ the Lord wanted to indicate how people ought to show that they love Christ. And he made it plain enough by entrusting him with his sheep. 'Do you love me?' 'I do' 'Feed my sheep.' All this once, all this a second time, all this a third time. Peter made no other reply than that he loved him. The Lord asked no other question but whether he loved him. When Peter answered, our Lord did nothing else but entrust his sheep to him." (excerpt from Sermon 229n)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite: copyright (c) 2019 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.

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