To Love Is to Serve

KEY VERSE: “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, Son of Jonas, lowest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lowest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus said unto him, Feed my sheep.” —John 21:17


IN ONE OF his appearances to his disciples after his resurrection, Jesus interviewed Peter. The account is given in our key verse. Peter was grieved by having his love questioned three times. Even though Peter had endeavored to prevent Jesus’ crucifixion, no animosity was rankling in his heart because he had not been permitted to have his own way.

And now that he was assured that his Master had been raised from the dead, his love and devotion was more deep-rooted than ever. However, although given the commission to feed the Master’s sheep, with what should he feed them? What message should he give them? At this time Peter did not know where he stood himself in the divine plan, nor did he know what course the messianic cause would take.

Continuing the conversation, Jesus did give Peter some valuable information, saying, “When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”—John 21:18

John observes, “This spake he [Jesus], signifying by what death he [Peter] should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.” (vs. 19) The cross is used as symbol of the sacrificial death of the Christian, during the whole period of his consecrated service, even unto death. Jesus took up he literal cross only a few hours before his death, but he carried the symbolic cross during the entire course of his earthly ministry.

Peter had learned by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that the crucifixion was not the tragedy he had felt it would be. He had not yet grasped the full import of the crucifixion, but his heart was being prepared for the final lesson that would give him this understanding, which was the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. A great miracle occurred at Pentecost which was the opening of the minds and hearts of Peter and the other apostles to the real meaning of Jesus’ death, and the part they would now be privileged to share in the outworking of the divine plan of redemption.

Before his crucifixion Jesus had said: “The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26) And how wonderfully this was fulfilled! Take the case of Peter ho had so determinedly resisted the crucifixion of Jesus simply because he did not understand its necessity. After receiving the Holy Spirit we find him declaring the great fact of the resurrection to his audience, and besides, quoting prophecies from the Old Testament which foretold both his death and his resurrection.—Acts 2:22-33

Had Peter, prior to the crucifixion, understood this, he would have known that the redemption of mankind from death depended upon the death of Jesus, and also upon his resurrection. But this understanding came through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. While the Master was teaching Peter valuable heart lessons previous to this, it was not until he received the revealing power of the Holy Spirit that the whole matter opened up to him. His heart responded to this glorious unfolding of the truth, and he was fully ‘converted’—converted, that is, to a knowledge and heart appreciation of the vital necessity of sacrifice in the outworking of the divine plan for human salvation.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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