When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”

John 21:15-17

The above interaction between Jesus and Peter occurred when Jesus appeared to some of the disciples after the resurrection.

Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” brings back memories. I have periodically asked the same question from people I cared about, and I’m sure many of you may have as well. For me it was often the result of being insecure, needing to know I was loved. It’s a problem people with over-sensitivity often have. All too often the person I asked “said” she loved me, but she didn’t always “act” like it. And so I had doubts. I continued feeling unloved.

It has me thinking: Love needs to be expressed in far more than words, doesn’t it? Love needs to be shown in action. And if it isn’t shown in action, is it love? Maybe not.

In asking Peter “Do you love me?” Jesus was definitely not insecure or needing assurance. But can you imagine what Peter might have felt, hearing his Lord ask this, not just once, but three times? How that must have hurt, especially since he must already have felt guilty for letting Jesus down on the day of His crucifixion when he denied knowledge of Him! (Luke 22:54-62)

“Do you love me?” How emotionally charged those words are!

But Jesus, in His is ever-loving and compassionate way, did not hold Peter’s past mistakes against him. By asking Peter whether he loved Him three times – the same number of times He was denied – Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to take back what he had done. He gave Peter an opportunity to act out his love.

When Peter assured Him, Jesus told him to: “Feed my lambs…Take care of my sheep… Feed my sheep.” With those statements He called Peter to follow Him and carry on the work He had been doing. Jesus was inviting Peter to “show” his love.

I believe Jesus’ question for Peter is one He intends for us as well. He asks us: “Do you love me?”

With this question Jesus is calling us to put our love into action, to follow Him and be His disciples. Jesus calls us to be God’s presence in the world. He wants us to show His love to those living around us today in the way He showed love to those who lived at the time He walked the Earth.

“Do you love me?”

Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, now I am sending you.” (John 20:21)