"Lovest Thou Me?"
Read: John 21:15-23
We are now nearing the end of our contemplation of "His Great Love," and we shall conclude with a word on the way of love. It is still through the Apostle John that the message is coming to us. His writings are the last of the New Testament, and the final predominant feature is love.
The twenty-first chapter of his Gospel is a kind of appendix; almost like an afterthought. He seems to have concluded at the point marked verse thirty-one of chapter twenty, and then, as though on reflection, he seems to have said to himself, 'I cannot leave it there; there is something yet to be added. I must resolve it all into a personal application, a matter of personal love for the Lord proved by practical devotion.' So we have - in the first place -
"Lovest thou Me more than these?" the challenge is made very personal and direct: not to any Simon, but to "Simon, son of John." He is penned down and is not allowed to be mixed up in a crowd of Simons. Then, it was this Simon who had protested that, whatever might be the failures of others, his love would be stronger and more reliable than theirs. "Lovest thou Me more than these?" Doubtless many who read this, were they asked by the Lord if they loved Him, would be quite emphatic in their answer of "Yes!" But the Lord was evidently seeking an answer that was more than Simon was giving.
That is why He was so insistent. 'Simon, you have protested that you do love Me; you have even gone as far as to say that you would out-love other people; but, Simon, Simon, really look into your own heart - do you? Why, under trial, when I was withdrawn from you and you were left alone, and everything seemed to have gone wrong and to have broken down and all your personal expectations and ambitions and visions had proved worthless, why did you say, "I go a fishing?" as though you said, 'I am going to find some alternative to this kind of life, it is not satisfactory, t is so uncertain and there are so many difficulties,I cannot see the way, therefore I am going to make a way myself.'
There was another of this group who took the course of despair, passive despair - I refer to Thomas. But Peter put his dilemma into a positive form and said, "I go a fishing." We may adopt different courses in our perplexity, in adversity, under trial. When the Lord hides Himself and we cannot see Him, or hear Him, and we do not feel that He is with us, He seems to be so far away and to have gone right out of our world, all we were expecting seems to have come to an end, and we do not know where we are, then we are prone to go some way that we choose for ourselves, and begin to take alternatives to steadfast love. It is a real challenge, it is a positive challenge, because these are experiences, there are tests, that the Lord allows. It is not a wrong thing to say that there are times when the Lord hides Himself, when the Lord lets us feel that we are left alone, when the Lord seems to close the heavens to us so that there is no to-and-fro communication, and when everything that we had looked for, expected and preached, seems to have come to an end and to have broken down, we are just left to what seems like ruins of everything; the Lord just does do that, and peculiarly does He do that sort of thing when He has people in view who are going to count. Take that, brothers, sisters! People who are going to count for Him go through deep experiences like that, and the object is to get them on to a basis which will make it possible for Him to use them. We will never be used unless we can stand on our feet in the storm. We are useless to the Lord if we go to pieces when everything around us, and in our spiritual life, seems to have come to a deadlock. If then we give it up, we are of no use to the Lord. The whole question of future usefulness to the Lord is based upon a love for the Lord which does not give up and say, "I go a fishing." 'I take an alternative to following the Lord, I take an alternative to going on with the Lord because of the situation.'
That is why the Lord came back, once, twice - "Follow Me," "follow thou Me." 'You went back under trial, under testing - follow thou Me.' And you have got to follow and go on following when you cannot see Him, when you do not know where He is, you have got to go on. These are the kind of people, and these alone, who will be used as Peter was. The basis of everything was that kind of personal love to the Lord Himself, not for what He was doing for Peter at the time, but for Himself. Oh,that is difficult - God only knows how difficult it is - to love Him for Himself when He does not seem to be doing anything for us at all. That is the challenge of love.
Really now, have we got very near to this? Love is something more than being a nominal Christian, bearing the name of Christian and going to meetings and taking up Christian work and all that. The Lord says, "Lovest thou Me?" I am not stopping with the different words that were used for 'love.' The Lord used one word, Peter used another. We will leave that aside. The challenge is this - "Lovest thou Me?" What is the caliber, the quality, the content, of your love? "Lovest thou Me?"
(continued with # 7 - "The Proof of Love")